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Defection: Appeal Court Dismisses Suit Seeking To Sack Governor Umahi, Deputy

Appeal Court rules in favour of Governor Umahi and his Deputy.

An Appeal Court in Enugu has dismissed a suit seeking the sack of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Defection: Appeal Court Dismisses Suit Seeking To Sack Governor Umahi, Deputy

Appeal Court Dismiss Suit Against Umahi, Igwe

Following the defection of Umahi and Igwe in November 2020, the candidate of the APC in the 2019 governorship election, Sonni Ogbuoji, and his deputy, Justin Mbam, had approached an Ebonyi State High Court seeking the sack of the governor and his deputy.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the governorship seat vacant on account of the two men’s defection from the PDP to the APC.

Messrs Ogbuoji and Mbam also asked the court to order that they be sworn in immediately since they came second in the 2019 governorship election.

But Justice Henry Njoku of the Ebonyi State High Court dismissed the suit for lacking in merit and awarded N500,000 as damages against the plaintiff.

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Njoku ruled that, having regard to Section 188 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the defendants, Umahi and his deputy, had not offended any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act in defecting to the APC.

The High Court further held that, having regard to Section 308 of the Constitution, it was even wrong to institute criminal or civil proceedings against the office of the Governor or Deputy Governor.

Dissatisfied with the judgement, the plaintiffs, Ogbuoji and his running mate, Ogodo, on March 7, 2022, filed an appeal against the judgement, at the Enugu Judicial Division of the Appeal Court.

But the Appeal Court, on Friday, in affirming the ruling of the Abakaliki High Court, said that Governor Umahi and his deputy did not offend any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act, as there was no consequence under the law against the defection of the holder of the office of the President, Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor, to another political party from the party that sponsored the election that brought him or her to office.

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It further held that the defection of a political office holder may appear immoral, but it was not the duty of the court to embark on an investigation or probe into the provisions of the laws, warning that judicial activism must not be turned into judicial rascality.

The appellate court further held that there was no provision in Sections 180, 188 or 189 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, that empowered the court to remove either a sitting governor or the deputy.

According to the learned Justices, “Defection of an office holder is not novel to Nigeria’s judicial jurisprudence.”

While dismissing the appeal, the court awarded the sum of N200,000 against the appellants.

The Counsel to the Defendants, Barrister Roy Nweze, applauded the judgement, saying, “it will be a reference point all over the country”

KanyiDaily recalls that on Monday, March 8, 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja had also ordered Umahi and Igwe to vacate their positions for defecting to a different party.

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