A Federal High Court, FHC, Abuja, on Wednesday, gave an order restoring Mahdi Ali Gusau as the deputy governor of Zamfara, following his impeachment by the state’s House of Assembly on Feb. 23, 2022, in spite of a subsisting court order.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgement, also set aside all the steps and actions taken by the House of Assembly, former Governor Bello Matawalle and the state’s chief judge in the purported impeachment of Gusau during the pendency of the suit in court.
Justice Ekwo, who held that the act of the then assembly’s speaker, ex-governor, chief judge and indeed others was an aberration and cannot be allowed to stand, described it as “null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
“I agree with the learned silk for the plaintiff/applicant that the court must protect its dignity by reprimanding the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants (speaker, governor and chief judge) and undoing the steps, acts or proceedings taken in the impeachment while this suit was pending,” he said.
The judge also held that contrary to the argument of counsel to 5th to 38th defendants, he did not see in any of the judicial authorities cited and relied upon by the lawyer that authorises any litigant to take extra-judicial action when a case was pending in court.
“Once parties have turned their dispute over to the court for determination, the right to resort to self-help ends.
“So, It is not permissible for one of the parties to take any step of complete helplessness, or which may give the impression that the court Is being used as a mere subterfuge, to tie the result of litigation and the appropriate order of court before acting further,” he said, citing a previous case.
Mr Matawalle, the three state’s senators, members of House of Representatives and that of House of Assembly had all defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to All Progressives Congress (APC) on June 29, 2021.
Following their defection, the PDP and Gusau, the then deputy governor, who did not cross carpeted along with them, had in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/650/2021, asked the court to declare their seats vacant having abandoned the party through which they got into the positions of power.
The plaintiffs had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, President of the Senate, House of Representatives Speaker and House of Assembly Speaker as 1st to 5th defendants respectively.
Also joined in the suit are Zamfara State Governor, Chief Judge, Bello Matawalle, the three senators, House of Representatives members and all members of the state’s House of Assembly as 6th to 38th defendants respectively.
They sought an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept the list of the PDP candidates issued for the purpose of holding and occupying the office of governor, the state and federal lawmakers.
They also sought for an order for INEC to issue certificates of return to each of the said candidates for the purpose of holding and occupying the said offices purportedly occupied by members of the APC “in defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court in SC. 377/2019: APC v. Senator Kabiru Marafa and others for the unspent electoral term of office of May 29, 2019 to May 28, 2013.”
They also sought an order compelling the defendants to swear in Gusau as governor on PDP’s platform to complete the tenure of office, among others.
The FHC had, on July 19, 2021, restrained the House of Assembly from proceeding with its planned impeachment of Gusau as deputy governor.
The court gave the order following an ex parte application brought by the PDP’s lawyer, Ogwu Onoja, in which he canvassed that the House of Assembly, Matawalle and others were planning to impeach Gusau who refused to defect to APC.
Despite the order of the court, Gusau was impeached by the House of Assembly after receiving the report of the investigative panel constituted by the chief judge, Kulu Aliyu.
The plaintiffs, however, filed a motion on notice seeking an order restoring the status quo of Gusau wholly to the position as at July 8, 2021 when this suit was commenced, irrespective of the merits as might be ultimately decided in the case, and in particular setting aside all the steps taken by the defendants in furtherance of the purported impeachment proceedings.