ABUJA—Temporary respite came the way of five Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors, who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, as the Federal High Court in Abuja, held that their former party, the PDP, failed to properly serve them with copies of the suit seeking to declare their seats vacant.
Justice Kolawole stressed that the issue of service of the originating summons on the defendants was fundamental to the determination of such legal dispute, adding that PDP had by its own action, failed to effectively activate the jurisdiction of the court on the matter.
Therefore, the court, went ahead and declared the purported service of the court process on the governors through the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja as invalid and defective, noting that the governors ought to have been served personally or through the Attorneys-General of their respective states.
Justice Kolawole further maintained that in view of the fact that the governors challenged the legal propriety of the said court papers which were pasted at APC office situated at No. 40 Blantyre Street in Wuse 2, Abuja, the PDP ought to have applied for a variation of the earlier order that okayed service of the suit on the defendants via substituted means.
He blamed the PDP for not approaching the court for a fresh ex-parte order that would have allowed it serve them through the APC new office or where they could be easily reached, probably at their state liaison offices.
Meantime, it will be recalled that the governors had vehemently opposed the suit on the ground that PDP attempted to serve the court papers on them at a venue which they said was not mentioned in an ex-parte order for substituted service the court made on December 13, 2013.
While upholding their contention, yesterday, Justice Kolawole observed that: “The plaintiff’s motion on notice dated March 20, 2014 seeking an order for leave of court granting substituted service on any senior adult in the liaison offices of the various states of the defendants, is an admission that the service effected on the defendants was logically incongruous and defective.”
“The motion on notice amounts to putting the cart before the donkey. It is an abuse of court process. It is hereby dismissed”, the judge added..
Besides, the court held that the implication of the motion on notice was that the plaintiff, “conceded that the governors (2nd-6th defendants) were not properly served with the originating summon.
“It is obvious that the address were the bailiff had purportedly served the defendants was invalid. It was inapplicable or erroneous and has ceased to be a valid address. It will not serve any useful purpose.
“It is therefore the view of this court that the plaintiff (PDP), has returned to where it was after the December 13, 2013 order. As it is, the defected governors have not been properly served with the originating summon.
“The plaintiff should repackage itself and do the needful to get the defendants properly served. I uphold the application of the defendants seeking the setting aside of the purported service, and striking out the motion on notice” Justice Kolawole ruled.
PDP had gone before the court, praying it to declare the seats of the Governors vacant and order that the Deputy Governor or Speaker of the State Houses of Assembly of the respective states, be sworn-in to replace the defendants.
Those PDP urged the court to sack from office were Governors Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, Alhaji Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed of Kwara state, who were all listed in the suit as 2nd to 6th defendants, respectively