Close this search box.



By Innocent Chiwuokem Sylvester

Defection of Politicians and majorly, Law makers from one Political Party to the winning party has constituted part and parcel of our Nigerian Political System.
Recently, the defection of twenty-Seven (27) Rivers State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) House of Assembly members to All Progressive Party (APC) has raised some concerns.

The leadership of PDP had written to Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) notifying them of the recent happenstances and requesting for another election to be conducted to fill the vacancies left by the Legislators that defected.

In this article, I will be examining the legality or otherwise of the defection of Lawmakers from one Political Party to another using the recent case in Rivers State as a case study.

Political defection is the change of party allegiance from a party where a person (politician) belonged to another political party, political defections are usually out of self-interest.

Black’s Law Dictionary defined Political Defection as an ‘abandonment of allegiance or duty; the forsaking of a person or cause; desertion.’

In other words, in political terms, it means the forsaking of one’s political party for the opposition.

The reasons for political defections have been attributed to political interest, the pursuit of political ambition, internal party division, lack of transparency in party processes, lack of political ideology, and political agenda.

The first known and recognized political defection in Nigeria was in 1951 when members of the National Council for Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) defected and joined the Action group(AG) in order to deny Nnamdi Azikwe the power of the majority making Obafemi Awolowo become the premier of the western region.
A number of defections have hit the Nigerian political system in the last decade, mostly movements between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) which are the two giant parties in Nigeria.

The legitimacy of political defections in Nigeria is derived from the right to freedom of Association enshrined in the Constitution, particularly in Section 40[6] which provides thus;
“Every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests”.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the above section, it is important to note that the right to Freedom of Association is not absolute for politicians.

There are certain legal inhibitions to this right to Freedom of Association of a Politician.

Section 68 (1) (g) provides the restrictions to the right of a National Assembly Law maker to defect from Party to another.
Section 68(1) :

“(1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – . . . “
Section 68(1)(g) –

“(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a DIVISION in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a MERGER of two or more political parties or FACTIONS by one of which he was previously sponsored;”
The provisions of Section 109(1)(g) is pari passu with the provisions of the above with respect to State Houses of Assembly Law makers.

From the above provisions, it is notable that a politician who is a member of the National Assembly or State House of Assembly can only defect under exceptional circumstances.

One of such exceptional circumstance is a DIVISION in the Political Party that the intending defector belongs to.

This position has been espoused in the case of Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde v. Ondo State House of Assembly (2015) 8 NWLR 314 as follows:
“…is to the effect that only such FACTIONALIZATION, FRAGMENTATION, SPLINTERING or “DIVISION” that makes it impossible or impracticable for a political party to function as such will, by virtue of the proviso to section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, justify a person’s defection to another party and the retention of his seat for the unexpired term in the house in spite of the defection. The division must affect the entire structure of the political party at the centre, that is to say, National Leadership. Otherwise, as rightly held by the trial court and the Court of Appeal, in this case, the defector automatically loses his seat…”

The Court of Appeal Per Owoade, JCA in the case of Iteun v. The Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and Ors. (2021) LCN/14938 CA further reinterated the principle elucidated in the above case by holding that:
“. . . for such a member not to be allowed to be join another Political Party with his faction may be to place him in a position where his right to contest for Political Offices will be lost”.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal in INEC v. DPP (2015) LPELR-24900 CA puts it better that “such lawmaker should not be tied down in a party that has become divided”.
However, the Court heavily emphasized in the above decisions that the DIVISION must be one that affects the entire political structure of the Party at the centre, that is, the National Leadership of the Party and the proof of the above fact is strictly on proof of evidence not a matter of course.
See the case of; Attorney General of Federation v. Abubakar.

The other condition that supports the defection of a National Assembly Law maker or State House of Assembly Lawmaker is when his Political Party that he previously belonged to merges with another. This MERGER must also be one that affects the National structure of the Party and not the Local structures.
It’s pertinent to note that the above conditions for a lawful defection only applies to National and State House of Assembly Law Maker’s, thus, Presidents and their Vice, Governor’s and their Deputies are permitted to defect to any political party of their choice as no legal inhibition was provided by the law against such.

As I have already elucidated, a Lawmaker whether at the Federal or State level can only defect to another Party if there is a DIVISION in his Political Party at the National Level or there is a MERGER of his Political Party with another Political Party.
Aside the above, such defection is unlawful and the seats of the ‘defected members’ will be declared vacant with a new election conducted by INEC to fill the vacancy.
It’s not really in my position to say if there is a division at the National structure of PDP or not to warrant the defection of the 27 Law makers to APC. However, the Lawmakers cited division as a reason for their defection.
If truly, there is division at the National structure of PDP, then the members who defected are to prove same and if they succeed, their defection is constitutional but if not, then I leave them to their fate.

Like an American Realist, Oliver Wendell Holmes postulated, Law is ‘the prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious . . .’.
The Court has the ultimate duty to evaluate and ascertain if truly there is a DIVISION at the National structure of PDP to warrant the defection of the 27 Law makers in Rivers State – that is, if the said 27 Law makers decides to approach the Court as their seats have been declared vacant by the Speaker of the House.
Whilst we wait for the above to happen, Law makers can freely and legally defect to other political parties but on grounds permitted by the law.

The Writer recommends that similar provisions like Section 68(1)(g) and Section 109(1)(g) be made to include all Politicians holding public offices like the President and his Vice, the Governors and their Deputies, and not just members of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly.


This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation ( funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International ( The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.


This publication is not a piece of legal advice. The opinion expressed in this publication is that of the author(s) and not necessarily the opinion of our organisation, staff and partners.


🛒 Take short courses, get samples/precedents and learn your rights at

🎯 Publish your legal articles for FREE by sending to:

🎁 Receive our free Daily Law Tips & other publications via our website and social media accounts or join our free whatsapp group: Daily Law Tips Group 5


Get updates on all the free legal awareness projects of Sabi Law (#SabiLaw) and its partners, via:

YouTube: SabiLaw

Twitter: @Sabi_Law

Facebook page: SabiLaw

Instagram: @SabiLaw.org_

WhatsApp Group: Free Daily Law Tips Group 5

Telegram Group: Free Daily Law Tips Group

Facebook group: SabiLaw




This publication is the initiative of the Sabi Law Foundation ( funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International ( Sabi Law Foundation is a Not-For-Profit and Non-Governmental Legal Awareness Organization based in Nigeria. It is the first of its kind and has been promoting free legal awareness since 2010.


As a registered not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation, Sabi Law Foundation relies on donations and sponsorships to promote free legal awareness across Nigeria and the world. With a vast followership across the globe, your donations will assist us to increase legal awareness, improve access to justice, reduce common legal disputes and crimes in Nigeria. Make your donations to us here  or contact us for sponsorship and partnership, via: or +234 903 913 1200.


Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Contact Support


Welcome! Log into your account