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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ebonyi Governor, deputy appeal judgment which orders their removal from office

The embattled Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, and his deputy, Eric Kelechi Igwe, on Wednesday approached the Appeal Court and filed an appeal objecting to the ruling of an Abuja Federal High Court, which ordered their removal from office over their defection to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

The Federal High Court had on Tuesday ask both the Governor and his deputy to vacate their office as a result of their defection to APC from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The same court also ordered the Ebonyi State 16-member House of Assembly to vacate their position due to the same reason of defection to the ruling APC from the PDP.

However, Umahi Appealing the decision before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/920/2021, stated that the Federal High Court erred when it said it had “not seen any authority which propounds that where Governor or Deputy Governor defects his political party on which platform he was elected into office, he cannot be sued by that political party to reclaim its mandate.”

“The Hon trial court was virtually setting aside the Supreme court of Nigeria’s decision in AG Federation v. Atiku Abubakar & 3 ORS (2007) LCN/3799(SC) to the effect that there are no constitutional provisions prohibiting President or vice and invariably the Governor and or deputy Governor from defecting to another Political Party.

“The provisions of section 308 are specific Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against 3rd and 4th Appellants during their mandate in office as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively

“The Respondent’s cause of action at the court below was defection of the Appellants from the PDP on which platform they were voted into office to the APC.

“There is no provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that provides for the removal of 3rd and 4th Appellants as sitting Governor and Deputy Governor respectively of Ebonyi State for reason of defection,” the Appellants said.

The Appellants also said the trial court erred in law and misdirected itself when it relied on Sections 68 and 109 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in holding that the Appellants, having defected from the PDP to the APC, offended the provisions of the Constitution and must vacate their offices as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively.

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The Appellants, in their suit, stated that there is no specific mention of Governor and Deputy Governor in the provisions of section 68 and 109 respectively of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“By relying on sections 68 and 109 of the Constitution the Hon. trial court assumed the role of the legislator and arrogated to itself the powers of amendment of the Constitution.

“There is no provision in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which state that Governor or Deputy Governor will vacate his office if he defects from his political party to another political party.

“The lower court erred in law and overruled the decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria when it held that ownership of votes cast during the Governorship Election of 2019 belongs to the 1st Respondent and not the Appellants,” they said.

They argued that, “The Hon trial court relied on AMAECHI v. INEC and FALEKE v. INEC when same are no longer the law on the ownership of votes cast in an election.

“Ngige v. Akunyile (2012) 15 NWLR Pt.1323-343 (CA) the court held: “the above provisions show that a political party canvasses for votes on behalf of the candidate. In other words, a political party is nothing more than agent of the candidate in gathering votes to an election.”

“In INEC vs. Action Congress (2009) 2 NWLR Pt. 1126 – 524 (CA) the Court held: “…the participation of a political party does not exceed campaigning for the candidate….””

In Ground 4, they said, “The Hon trial court erred in law when it held that the Appellants are deemed to have been resigned from their Offices as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State.”

Umahi and Igwe also argued that the judgment erred in Grounds 5, 6, 7 and 8. This is as they asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court.

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