…FHC Sacks Ebonyi Governor, Deputy, 17 Legislators … Court Says No Constitutional Provision Makes Ballot Transferable From One Party to Another …No Court Can Remove Me From Office…Umahi …Insists Judgement is Jungle Justice, Forwards Petition Against Judge to NJC The Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr David Umahi and his Deputy, Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe have
…FHC Sacks Ebonyi Governor, Deputy, 17 Legislators
… Court Says No Constitutional Provision Makes Ballot Transferable From One Party to Another
…No Court Can Remove Me From Office…Umahi
…Insists Judgement is Jungle Justice, Forwards Petition Against Judge to NJC
The Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr David Umahi and his Deputy, Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe have been sacked from office, following their defection to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). Also sacked are 17 legislators who defected with them.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday sacked Umahi, his Deputy and 17 legislators following their defection from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the total number of 393,042 votes garnered by Governor Umahi during the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi state, belonged to the PDP and same could not be legally transferred to the APC.
According to the court, having defected to the APC, both Umahi and his deputy, not only jettisoned the PDP, but also the votes that belonged to it.
In a landmark judgement that may likely sanitize the country’s political process where politicians defect at will to another party after benefiting from the mandate of another, the court held that going by the outcome of the governorship election, the office of the Governor and Deputy Governor in Ebonyi state, “belong to the Plaintiff and no other political party”.
“There is no constitutional provision that made the ballot transferrable from one party to the other”.
It held that the PDP is bound to retain the votes and mandate that was given to it by the electorates in Ebonyi state, as both Governor Umahi and his Deputy could not validly transfer same to APC.
The court therefore ordered both Umahi and Igwe to immediately vacate their positions.
It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately receive from the PDP, names of persons to replace Umahi and his Deputy, or in the alternative, conduct fresh gubernatorial election in Ebonyi state in line with section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The court further restrained both Umahi and Igwe from further parading themselves as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi state.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which sacked Umahi and Igwe, for defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC), abandoning the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform they were elected both in 2015 and 2019, has equally sacked 17 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly that defected with them.
The lawmakers had on November 17, 2020, joined Umahi and Igwe, to move over to the APC.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them, could not transfer the mandate they obtained from the ballot, to another political party.
It held that the Defendants who became members of the House of Assembly on the platform of the PDP, could not justify their defection when there was no division in the PDP.
It held that section 109(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution was purposely couched to ensure that defectors were not allowed to retain their seat in the House, unless such defectors are able to justify their action.
The court held that the case PDP brought against them succeeded.
Consequently, it ordered the lawmakers to immediately vacate their positions, even as it restrained them from further parading themselves or acting as members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
The court also made an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to accept from the PDP, a list of its candidates to replace the sacked lawmakers, as well as to issue Certificate of Return to them.
Alternately, the court directed INEC to within 90 days, conduct fresh election in Ebonyi State to fill up the vacant positions.
It further ordered all the lawmakers to refund all salaries and monies they received from the period they defected to the APC.
The judgement followed a suit the PDP ldged before the court.
This judgement will no doubt send jitters to both the Zamfara State Governor, Mr Bello Matawalle and his Cross River State counterpart, Prof Ben Ayade who also defected from the PDP to the APC.
But Governor Umahi says no court can remove him from office. He vows to remain in office, despite the ruling of a Federal High Court which on Tuesday sacked him, his deputy, Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe and 17 lawmakers who defected with him from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruing All Progressive Congress (APC).
He urged the people of the State to remain calm as he was sure of quashing the ruling at the Appeal Court.
The Governor, who described the Justice Inyang Ekwo judgement as a jungle justice, said he has forwarded a petition against the Judge to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
He noted the Court lacks the powers to remove him as Governor as he is covered by immunity clause which protects him from any form of litigation that is not pre election and tribunal matter.
Umahi also noted that there are two other similar cases on defection of a Governor by an Ebonyi High Court and another in Zamfara which ruled in favour of the Governor, Mr Bello Matawalle.
He said: “The Constitution stipulates that the only way a Governor can vacate his seat is either by death, resignation or impeachment by the House of Assembly.
“There is no other provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the constitution upside down.
“I have listened to the judgement of Ekwo and it is very obvious that he was on a mission. He was making all efforts to upturn the rulings of the Appeal and Supreme courts on issues like this.
“We have heard the rumors before now that he was determined to give judgement against all known laws and the constitution to embarrass the APC and the Federal government”.
“For me I do not feel worried but I feel so sorry for the Judiciary. The Executive may have problem, the Legislature may have problem but the moment justice could be purchased then we are in trouble in this country. And the ruling this afternoon is a clear evidence that this country is in trouble.
“And let me tell you that this same judge has over 10 cases against Ebonyi State Government with him and you can imagine what he is going to rule. We have petitioned him to NJC and we will follow it up to ensure that this man is brought to justice”
“I want you to disregard the judgement, it is null and void, there is a subsisting judgement in Ebonyi and Zamfara states. So we have chosen the one to obey, we will not obey his ruling, we will obey the ruling of a competent court of coordinate jurisdiction that says you cannot sue a Governor.
“The sections of the Constitution are very clear, no civil or criminal proceedings could be brought against a sitting Governor. This is not a pre-election matter, this is not a tribunal matter. So he has murdered justice in this country and he and his generation will be remembered for this jungle justice which has no leg to stand.
“I am still the Governor of Ebonyi state and he has no powers to remove me,” Umahi said
The Governor also argued that the Judge lacks the powers to declare the seats of the House of Assembly members vacant.
He said previous judgements have made it clear that it is only the presiding officer of the House of Assembly or the National Assembly that can declare their seats vacant.