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December 19, 2013

PDP Says Nigerian Lawmakers Who Defected Could Lose Their Seats

by Peter Clottey

Nigeria legislators who defected this week to the opposition could lose their seats in the House of Representatives, as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) says it could take them to court, according to Abdullahi Jalo, spokesman for the PDP.

Thirty-seven lawmakers from the PDP defected to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) citing “divisions and factions” in the ruling party.

Jalo says if a legislator defects from a party that lawmaker loses his or her seat as enshrined in the constitution.

“There is all possibility that the PDP will take the issue to court for interpretation of that section [in the constitution]. That is what may likely come up,” said Jalo. “Everybody in the party, right from the president, the national chairman and all the working committee members nobody has taken this defection of these [legislators] lightly.”

He says the defections could allow the opposition to thwart President Goodluck Jonathan’s legislative agenda as well as undermine some functions of the government.

Observers say the opposition could pose a significant challenge to the PDP   in the upcoming 2014 budget process in the House of Representatives. Jalo agreed that the opposition could make life difficult for Mr. Jonathan.

“The fear is if any of the legislators will go against the demands of the president, it will derail the function of the president himself from performing and reading out his budget,’ said Jalo. “There is fear [that] this defection may tamper with the function of the government.”

In November, five powerful state governors who had left the PDP announced they had joined the APC party. Jalo said most of the defected parliamentarians come from the same states of the five governors who left the party last month.

Jalo says the PDP will quickly have to implement measures to stop losing its members to the opposition.

Some analysts say the defections boosts the electoral prospects of the APC, which is fast becoming the biggest opposition party.

Jalo dismissed suggestions that the APC could defeat the ruling party in the next general election, citing the poor showing of the opposition party in recent by elections.

“I believe the president is having sleepless nights with the national chairman to see what they can do to stop losing our members, particularly in the national assembly where we had about 172 majority before… that is most unfortunate,” said Jalo.
Clottey interview with Abdullahi Jalo, Spokesman for PDP