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Nigeria: ‘I’m Still Ebonyi Governor, Judgment Ousting Me Was Bought,’ Umahi Says

Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, on Tuesday, described his removal by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All

David Umahi,

Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, on Tuesday, described his removal by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.

Briefing journalists in Abakaliki, Umahi reiterated that he still remained Ebonyi governor, and that he would appeal the judgement.

According to Umahi, a governor could only vacate his seat by either death, resignation or impeachment by majority of members of the state House of Assembly.

He noted that the judgement was allegedly concocted to embarrass the APC and the federal government.

Umahi said: “For me, I do not feel worried. I feel so sorry for the judiciary. The executive may have problems, the legislature may have problems too, but the moment justice could be purchased, then, we are in trouble in this country.

“Then the ruling this afternoon shows that this country is in trouble. And let me tell you that this same judge has over ten 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 at all cost 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 Zamfara State and there is also a judgement in Ebonyi State. These sections of the constitution are very clear. This is not a pre-election matter; this is not a tribunal matter, and so, he has murdered justice in this country and he will be remembered by his generation for this jungle justice, which has no leg to stand.

“I am still the governor of Ebonyi State, but let me say to the nation, there is a need to look at the integrity of the judiciary, because if the judiciary begins to rule on constitutional matters that are well laid down, then, the citizens of this country may decide not to obey the jungle justice,” and therefore called on the people of the state to remain calm and law abiding, as there was no issue to worry about.

Also, reacting to the judgment outside the court, Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Mr Uchenna Orji, described the judgement as a travesty of justice and assured the people that they would appeal the decision.

Faulting the judgment, Orji stated that the judge only relied on provisions of the Electoral Act dealing with pre-election and election matters.

“The Court of Appeal decision in Amaechi shows that today’s judgement was a clear case of an error in law and we must challenge it at the appellate court,” he said.

He further disclosed that a court of coordinate jurisdiction in Ebonyi State, had made a pronouncement on this matter, saying the Constitution has no provision on defection for governors or has not made it an offence for a governor to defect from one party to another.

PDP Submits Names of Replacements to INEC

In a related development, the PDP, in compliance with the orders of Justice Iyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which sacked Governor Dave Umahi and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, has submitted two names of governor and deputy nominees to INEC.

The two nominees are Hon. Iduma Igariwe, a serving member of House of Representatives as the new governor and Mr. Fred Udogwu as the deputy governor.

The PDP also asked INEC to issue the certificates of return to the new nominees.

Addressing a press conference, the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said, “Following the removal of Governor Dave Umahi and his Deputy, Mr. Igwe, and in line with the Order of the Federal High Court directing the PDP to submit replacements for the duo, the national leadership of the party, has submitted the names of Hon. Iduma Igariwe as the new Governor and Mr. Fred Udogwu as the new Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State respectively.

“It follows the sacking from office of the Ebonyi State Governor, His Excellency, Chief Dave Umahi, and his deputy, His Excellency, Chief Kelechi Igwe, by a Federal High Court for defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

“In the same ruling, the court, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo, also sacked the 16members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, who also defected with the governor and his deputy into the APC.

“You will recall that Governor Umahi, his deputy and the 16 lawmakers were elected on the PDP platform in 2015 and again in 2019, but defected to the APC on November 17, 2020, citing ‘injustice done to the South-East’.

“And determined to reclaim our stolen mandates, the PDP had sued them and joined both the APC and INEC in the suit. We had prayed the court to declare that by defecting from the PDP, on whose platform they were sponsored and elected, Umahi, Igwe and the 16lawmakers had resigned or deemed to have resigned from office on the day of their defections. And the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, gave the PDP and democracy justice today.

“In a landmark judgement, the court ruled that, ‘the votes in any election in Nigeria are to political parties, and not candidates. Justice Ekwo consequently ordered all the affected persons to vacate office. He also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to receive names of candidates from the PDP to replace Messrs Umahi and Igwe.

“First, we want to appreciate the Nigerian Judiciary for this landmark judgement. The ruling will bring order in the political space and check the issue of political rascality and stolen mandates. The judiciary is indeed the backbone of this democracy.

“We also want to single out Justice Inyang Ekwo for special recognition, particularly, for being courageous and forthright in going for the substance of the law rather than the technicalities.

“And in line with the court order, PDP is immediately submitting to INEC, the names of our candidates for Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State respectively. We are also calling on INEC to immediately issue the Certificates of Return to the PDP nominees as replacement for Messrs Umahi and Igwe pursuant to the Order of the Honourable Court.

“Furthermore, we call on the Chief Judge of Ebonyi state to immediately swear them in as soon as INEC issues the requisite Certificates of Return. And lastly, we call on INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificates of Return from the 16 lawmakers and commence the process of conducting bye-elections to replace them,” Ayu stated.

Judgment is Judicial Recklessness, Says APC

The ruling APC, has described the Federal High Court judgement on the defection of Governor David Umahi as a clear case of travesty of justice and judicial recklessness.

The party in a statement issued yesterday by the Director of Publicity, Mr. Salisu Dambatta, declared that the judgement was dead on arrival.

The party stated: “Our attention has been drawn to the judgement made by Hon Justice Inyang Ekwo of Court 5 of Federal High Court FCT, Abuja and the travesty of Justice occasioned by the recklessness of his Judicial decision.”

APC insisted that the presiding Judge committed a glaring judicial error by giving judgement sacking a duly elected and sworn in governor and his deputy without relying on or citing any provision(s) of the constitution or any provision of the Electoral Act that empowers the court to sack a sitting governor and or his deputy, saying, “This is purely a travesty of Justice.”

The ruling party emphasised that the court failed, refused 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 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The Court presided by Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo further went ahead to rely on the outdated authority of Amaechi v INEC (Omegha case) without exercising the Judicial power of Judicial distinction between pre-election/ election matters and this matter of elected governor defecting to another Political Party.

“He chose not to appreciate or he lacked the understanding of the difference between a Governor of a State and Governorship candidate of a political party. The Electoral Act and the judgement in Amaechi v INEC contemplate, who is the right candidate of the Party and not the issue of defection, as you all know neither Amaechi nor Omegha raised the issue of defection to another political party.

“So it is absolutely ridiculous and questionable, as it is shameful that a judge could decide a weighty matter such as conditions for sacking the governor of a State without relying on any express provision of the Constitution or Electoral Act or Judicial Authority either of superior courts or even courts of coordinate jurisdiction.”


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