A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday ordered the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to serve five governors who defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) the substituted service, by publishing the suit against them in one insertion either in the Thisday Newspapers or Guardian Newspapers.
The affected governors are AbdulFatah Ahmed (Kwara) Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers) Muritala Nyako (Adamawa) Aliyu Magatakarda Wamako (Sokoto) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano).
PDP filed the legal action in December last year following the defection of the governors to the APC.
PDP who instituted the action through its counsel Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), had prayed the court to declare the seats of the five governors vacant in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
However, the five governors through their counsel appeared in court under protest that they heard about the case in the media. They therefore raised objection to the mode of service adopted by the plaintiff.
After the court set aside the earlier service of the court’s processes on the governors, the PDP filed an application pursuant to order 6 rule 5 (c) of the Federal High Court Rules seeking to serve the processes on the governors by placing same in newspapers.
In a short ruling, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said: “I am satisfied that the plaintiff/ applicant has disclosed good reasons to warrant the granting of the application. And it is hereby granted as prayed. The applicant shall within 7 days publish the suit in the ThisDay Newspapers or Guardian Newspapers. They would be entitled to 30 days to respond. The case is adjourned to 22 Sept 2014 for mention.”
The judge had earlier upheld the claim by the governors that they were not properly served with the processes.
In the ruling, the judge held that PDP failed to follow the procedures allowed by law in reaching the defendants since December 10 when the court action was instituted.
The court agreed with lawyers to the governors that they had not been served with the court papers and as such, the court could not assume jurisdiction until the plaintiff (PDP) had done the needful and put its house in order.
The purported service of court process allegedly effected at No. 40 Blantyre street, being the new office of the APC was declared illegal, invalid, defective and was set aside by the court for not having the court endorsement.
Justice Kolawole held that the issue of service of originating summon by the plaintiff on the defendant was fundamental before the court could take further action against the defendants.
He asked PDP to formally write the court and attach the evidence of proper service of court processes on the defendants before any action could be taken against the governors.
The PDP had informed the court that in line with the court order obtained on December 13, 2013, the originating summon was taken to No. 6 Bissau Street, Wuse II but discovered that the APC had vacated the office and relocated to No. 40, Blantyre street, Abuja as the new office.
PDP claimed that the originating summon and other court papers were subsequently taken to the new office for onward delivery by the APC to the governors.
But Justice Kolawale agreed with the governors that the service at 40 Blantyre Street was invalid, ineffective and faulty because the order of the court for service did not embody the address.
The judge said that what the plaintiff (PDP) ought to have done was to come back to the court to legally vary the order of service before serving it at 40, Blantyre Street, being the new APC National Secretariat.
Justice Kolawole said that PDP would have done well if the service of the originating summons had been effected on the Attorney General of the affected states since such service could hardly be faulted in law.
He therefore ordered PDP represented by Dr. Alex Izion SAN to do the needful before the case could be resuscitated by the court for adjudication.