The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, slated June 7 to hear a suit seeking to disqualify Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from vying to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th National Assembly.
Justice Iyang Ekwo directed that copies of the legal processes should be served on the embattled lawmaker to enable him to respond to issues that were raised against him.
The court was in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/539/2019, urged to declare that Hon. Gbajabiamila who was cited as the 1st Defendant, “is not fit and proper to be elected as a Member of the House of Representatives and/or as the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
Equally joined as Defendants in the matter were the House of Reps, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The plaintiff, Mr. Philip Undie, who identified himself as a tax payer, in a 25 paragraphed affidavit, told the court that he has evidence that the 1st Defendant was convicted by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2007.
Consequently, he asked the court to determine, “Whether upon the construction of section 66 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, vis-à-vis the judgement of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia, Atlanta, USA, in Suit No. SO6YO829 in the matter of Femi Gbaja, the 1st Defendant is fit and proper person to be elected to the House of Representatives and/or to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
When the matter came up on Monday, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Ayodele Justice, told the court that he found it difficult to serve the processes on the lawmaker.
He informed the court that he would file a motion for leave to effect the service through substituted means.
However, Justice Ekwo, said he was not impressed that the plaintiff had yet to serve the processes on the 1st Defendant to enable hearing to commence on the matter.
He noted that the suit, being a public interest litigation, ought to be accorded speedy hearing.
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Consequently, the court adjourned to hear the motion for the processes to be served on the 1st Defendant via substituted means.
However, a member of the House of Reps, Hon. Raph Igbokwe, on Monday, brought a motion to be joined as an interested party in the matter.
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Speaking with newsmen after the proceeding, counsel to the plaintiff, said it was not true that his client withdrew the matter.
Specifically, the plaintiff, is seeking for: “A declaration that the 1st Defendant is not fit and proper to be elected as a Member of the House of Representatives and/or as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
” An order of injunction restraining the 2nd and 4th Defendants from accepting the nomination of the 1st Defendant as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the 2nd Defendant herein.
“An order of injunction restraining the 1st Defendant from parading himself as a member of the House of Representatives, the 2nd Defendant herein and also as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the 2nd Defendant herein.
As well as, “An order of injunction restraining the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants from recognising the 1st Defendant as a member of the 2nd Defendant and or as aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
In the supporting affidavit he deposed before the court, the plaintiff, said he had after it came to the public domain that Hon. Gbajiabiamila was contesting to become the Speaker of the House of Reps, and upon his endorsement by the National Working Committee of the APC, conducted a background check on him and discovered that he was indicted in the USA.
He averred: “That following the wind of change that has pervaded the political environment in Nigeria, I deemed it proper to carry out a background check on the leading candidates for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives for 9th National Assembly.
“That I discovered that the 1st Defendant was a lawyer and practiced in the USA, particularly in the State of Georgia.
“That upon further enquiry, I discovered that the 1st Defendant was convicted and sentenced for fraud and dishonesty in relation to the sum of $25,000 (Twenty-Five Thousand US Dollars), belonging to a then client of the 1st Defendant, for 36 months.
“A Certified True Copy of the judgment of Supreme Court of Georgia to that effect issued , by Therese ” Tee” Barnes, Clerk of the said Supreme Court of Georgia on the 12th day of June, 2015, is hereby attached and marked as “Exhibit A”.
“That the judgment was delivered by a full panel of the Supreme Court of State of Georgia, comprising of the Chief Justice of the State of Georgia, Hon. Justice Hugh P. Thompson, Hon. Justice P. Harris Hines (Presiding Justice), Hon. Justice Robert Benham, Hon. Justice Carol W. Hunstein, Hon. Justice Harold D. Melton, Hon. Justice David E. Nahmias, Hon. Justice Keith R. Blackwell, on 26th day of February, 2007.
“That it was stated in the said judgment that the 1st Defendant admits violating Rule 1.15 (1) of Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct set forth in Bar Rule 4-102 (d).
“That the violation of the above referred Rule is punishable by disbarment.
“That the 1st Defendant accepted imposition of a Sentence of Suspension up to 36 months as a punishment for fraud and dishonesty in relation to the sum of $25, 000 belonging to a then client of the 1st Defendant, before the full panel of the Supreme Court of the state of Georgia.
” That the 1st Defendant herein and the same Respondent therein, admitted that he accepted payment of $25, 000 as settlement of a client’s personal injury claims, deposited those funds in his Attorney Trust Account in January, 2003, but failed to disburse those funds to the Client.
“That further to paragraph 18 herein immediately above, the 1st Defendant withdrew those funds for his own personal use, closed his practice and moved out of the State of Georgia and back to Nigeria to contest election for the House of Representatives in the year 2003.
” That by contents of the said judgment, although the Defendant later paid the $25, 000 to his client in 2006, he however admitted that his conduct violated Rule 1.15(1) and that, as a result, he is subject to disbarment.
“That further to paragraphs 17, 18 and 20 above, the Honourable Court convicted and sentenced the 1st Defendant therein to a 36 months suspension from law practice in the United States of America.
” That the story of the 1st Defendant’s conviction by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2007 has been graphically captured by several internet blogs and websites.
“That the mood of the nation today will not warrant placing the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the hands of any individual that had a tainted and questionable character”, the plaintiff added.