The Majority Leader of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila may is facing a serious challenge which may affect his ambition to vie for the office of the Speaker in the 9th Assembly.
Gbajabiamila has been serious with his campaign for the top jib in the House of Representatives. His ambition received a big boost after his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, adopted him as its candidate for the post.
However, a big threat to his ambition has emerged. This came as the Federal High Court in Abuja was asked to declare Gbajabiamila, unfit to be elected as a member or Speaker of the House of Representatives over an allegation that he was convicted for fraud and dishonesty in the United States of America in 2007.
According to The Punch, the request is contained in a suit filed by a plaintiff, Philip Undie, who described himself as a Nigerian resident in Abuja and who pays his tax.
He also contended through his lawyer, Mr Ayodele Justice, that by virtue of Section 66 of the Nigerian Constitution, the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia allegedly convicting and sentencing Gbajabiamila for fraud and dishonesty, the lawmaker was unfit to be elected as a member or Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The suit also urged the court to restrain both the House of Representatives and Gbajabiamila’s party, the All Progressives Congress, from accepting his nomination as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House. Those joined as defendants in the suit, marked HC/ABJ/CS/539/2019, are Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Gbajabiamila’s party, the APC.
In the suit, the plaintiff alleged that Gbajabiamila, as a practising lawyer in the State of Georgia in the US, “was convicted and sentenced for fraud and dishonesty in relation to the sum of $25,000” belonging to a then client of the lawmaker.
He said as punishment for the offence, Gbajabiamila was sentenced to a suspension from pracitising as a lawyer for 36 months. He said the conviction and sentence were passed by the full panel of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia in a judgment on February 26, 2007.
His affidavit filed in support of the suit read in part, “That the 1st defendant (Gbajabiamila) herein is the same respondent in the said matter with Case No. 506Y0829, IN THE MATTER OF FEMI GBAJA. 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). A copy of Rule 1.15 (1) of the State of Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and Enforcement is hereby attached and marked as ‘EXHIBIT B.’
“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.”
The plaintiff noted that Gbajabiamila had admitted that he accepted payment of $25, 000 as settlement of a client‘s personal injury claims, deposited the fund in his Attorney Trust Account in January, 2003 but failed to disburse the fund to the client.
Undie further noted that Gbajabiamila later withdrew the money “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 2003.”
He said by the content of the judgment, Gbajabiamila had 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”.
The plaintiff is not only seeking a declaration that the 1st defendant is not a fit and proper person to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives and or/as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is also, among others, seeking “an order of injunction restraining the 2nd and 4th defendants (the House and APC) 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.”
He also asked the court to make “an order of injunction restraining” the lawmaker “from parading himself as a member of the House of Representatives” and “also as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
The matter has not yet been decided. Also, Gbajabiamila has not reacted to the development.
The in-house election at the National Assembly is expected to hold in June which is barely a month from now. All eyes are on the court to give its verdict on the matter.