Court Sacks Ebonyi State Governor Umahi, And Deputy Over Defection.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday opened a new vista in Nigeria’s political landscape by ordering the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi and his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, to vacate their offices for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to him, the move from the PDP to the APC was illegal and unconstitutional. The judgment followed suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 920/21 and FHC/ABJ/CS/ 1041/21, filed by the PDP seeking the removal of the governor and his deputy from office for abandoning the party.
Justice Ekwo said the depositions of the 3rd and 4th defendants (Umahi and Igwe) in their counter-affidavit were “evasive and insufficient” to competently challenge the plaintiff’s originating process.
It was the opinion of the court that the “Immunity Clause” in section 308 of the Constitution is not absolute.
“Section 308 is a veritable constitutional shield,” the court said, adding that it was not inserted for political reasons.
Umahi and his deputy had filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the suit by the PDP, arguing that Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution provided immunity to them from the plaintiff’s suit and that votes cast during the said elections belonged to them and not the plaintiff, going by the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 and recent Supreme Court pronouncements.
However, the court disagreed with them and held that Umahi and Igwe did not controvert the deposition that total votes scored in an election belong to a political party.
Justice Ekwo said evidence abound that the 2nd defendant (APC) contested the Ebonyi State Governorship election held on March 2019, with its own candidates.
“It can be noted that the Constitution does not deal with the issue of defection lightly.
“The 3rd and 4th defendants cannot transfer the votes and victory of the plaintiff on March 9, 2019, to the APC. Office of the Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi state belongs to the PDP.
“The option for Umahi and Igwe is to vacate office and wait for the next election to contest election under the platform of their new party,” the court declared.
The court added that the act of the APC, Umahi and his deputy is aimed at dismantling the 1999 Constitution.
Consequently, the court held that the plaintiff won the majority of votes during the election and is entitled to enjoy same till end of tenure of office for which the election was made.
The PDP had in an originating summons asked the court to make a declaration that by defecting from the party on which they were sponsored and elected as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State, to the APC, a political party that did not win the election, they have resigned or deemed to have resigned from office.
Other defendants in the suit were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justice Ekwo also directed the 16 lawmakers of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly members who defected with the governor to the APC to accordingly vacate their seats.
Justice Ekwo held that the votes cast for PDP in the election and those for the House of Assembly were not transferable to the APC.
Justice Ekwo in a separate judgment in a suit by the Peoples Democratic Party PDP ordered the Speaker of the House of Assembly and his co-defectors to immediately stop holding themselves out as members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
BUT the ousted governor and his deputy have rejected the court judgment. They vowed to appeal the ruling, describing it as a mockery of justice.
Umahi insisted he still the governor of Ebonyi State, stressing that no criminal or civil proceedings can be brought against him as a sitting governor.
He told journalists in Abakaliki, the state capital: “There is nothing to worry about at all. In the first place, there is no Constitutional provision for any hatchet man to remove a governor. There are three ways whereby a governor can vacate his seat: either by death, resignation or impeachment through the House of Assembly. There is no any other Constitutional provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the Constitution and the law upside down.”
“I have listened to the judgment of Ekwo and it is very obvious that he was on a mission. He was making all efforts to upturn the rulings of the Supreme Court and Appeal Court on issues like this.
“We heard the rumours before now, that he was determined to give judgment against all known laws and the Constitution, first to embarrass APC, secondly, to embarrass the Federal Government.
“For me, I do not feel worried. But I feel so sorry for the judiciary. The executive may have problems. The legislature may have problems. But the moment justice can be purchased, then we are in trouble in this country. The ruling, this afternoon, is clear evidence that this country is in trouble.
His commissioner for Information and Orientation, Uchenna Orji, said the governor and his deputy would appeal the judgment.
He said: “The trial Judge committed a glaring judicial error by giving judgment sacking a duly elected and sworn-in Governor and his Deputy without relying on or citing any provision(s) of the constitution of Nigeria or any provision of the Electoral Act that empowers the court to sack a sitting Governor and or his Deputy. This is purely a travesty of Justice.
“The court failed, refused and or neglected to understand the clear difference between a Governorship candidate of a political party as contemplated by the Electoral Act and a Governor of a State duly sworn in as contemplated by the Constitution.
Counsel to the defendants, Chukwuma Nwachukwu Ume (SAN), described the judgment as contradictory to the Constitution and Supreme Court ruling.
He said: “There is no provision against defection of the president, vice president or even the governor, or deputy governor. So, the court is giving judgment different from that of the Supreme Court. All the issues we raised were carpeted leading to this judgment. We are certainly going to appeal against the judgment.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.