LAGOS – Human Rights Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana has explained that defection by legislators, which was a common practice in the first republic, had been prohibited by the 1999 Constitution.
Falana cited the case of Abegunde vs Ondo State House of Assembly (2014) LPELR 23683 whereby the appellant, a member of the House of Representatives defected from the Labour Party to the Action Congress of Nigeria.
He said, “In justifying his defection, the appellant claimed that the Labour Party in Ondo State was factionalised. Since the division of the Labour Party was limited to Ondo State.
“The Supreme Court held that the division did not affect the party at the national level to justify the defection. It was therefore decided that the appellant had lost his seat in the House of Representatives.
“Relying on the case of Atiku Abubakar vs Attorney General of the Federation (2007) 4 SC (part ii) 62 the Supreme Court held that it is only a division, factionalisation or fragmentation that can make it impossible or impracticable for a party to function, that can justify the defection of a legislator from one party to another.
“Otherwise the defector automatically loses his seat. From the clear and unambiguous pronouncements of the apex court, a division in a political party envisaged by the constitution cannot be a figment of the imagination of prospective defectors. The division must make it practically impossible for the party to function.