Law News
Adoke raises posers on defections of office holders

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), on Tuesday raised some posers relating to the spate of defections recently witnessed in the country, which he said must be addressed quickly in order to restore sanity to the polity.

Adoke’s position was contained in his remarks made at the Roundtable on Defection of Political Office Holders in Nigeria organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Abuja.

A copy of his speech was made available to our correspondent.

He observed that while defections had been rationalised on the basis of the freedom of association, it is obvious from the provisions of Section 68(1) (a) and (g) that while the Constitution provides consequences for defection of lawmakers, no such consequences exist for members of the executive arm.

He noted that despite the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the provisions of Section 221 of the Constitution poses some challenges.

Section 221 provides that “No association other than a political party shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”

Adoke said the implication of that provision was that the mandate given to elected members of the executive and the legislature at an election does not inure to them as a person but to the political parties that sponsored their elections.

He said, “The question that arises from this is whether such elected members can by their defection, transfer the mandate given to them by the electorate under a different political platform to their new political associations without the consent of the people?

“Furthermore, what becomes of the choice the electorate had made and their preference for a particular party manifesto when the political office holder defects to another political party?

“It is the effect of the challenges that attend the process of defection that has led some commentators to opine that defections have greatly undermined our democracy.

“Defections have also been identified as breeding disloyalty, enmity between political office holders, and utter disregard for rule of law, which is essential for the sustenance of democracy.”

The minister said although the solution proposed by the framers of the 1999 Constitution is encapsulated  in Section 68(1) (g), the 2014 National Conference considered that the provision was inadequate and recommended that it should be amended to effect automatic vacation of seat by any elected official, executive or legislature, who defects regardless of the reason for such defection.

 

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