David Umahi, Eric Igwe Sacked
KanyiDaily recalls that on March 8, 2022, Umahi and Igwe were asked to vacate their positions over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
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 Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in the judgment he delivered on March 8, held that the votes Umahi secured during the Ebonyi governorship election, belonged to the PDP which sponsored his election.
The court held that the votes were not legally transferrable to the APC which the governor and his deputy decamped to, stressing that the duo not only jettisoned the PDP, but also the votes that belonged to it.
Justice Ekwo declared that having regard to section 221 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the democratic system of governance operated in Nigeria, votes at the election and elections are won by political parties and not their candidates or the candidates sponsored at the election by the political parties.
He further ordered the PDP to present another candidate or in the alternative, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct a fresh poll within 90 days.
Umahi Appeals Judgement
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Governor Umahi and his deputy filed an appeal against the judgment as well as an application staying its execution.
The appellants had argued that the trial court, in ordering them to vacate their offices, which was brought against them by the PDP, attempted to overrule a subsisting decision of the Supreme Court in AG Federation v. Atiku Abubakar & 3 ORS (2007) LCN/3799 (SC).
They contended that the apex court had in its decision, held that no constitutional provision prohibited a sitting President or Vice President, and invariably, the Governor or Deputy Governor, from defecting to another political party.
Umahi and his deputy argued that there is no specific mention of Governor and Deputy Governor in the provisions of both sections 68 and 109 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
They further argued that the trial court erred in law, when it restrained them from carrying on the duties in their offices as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, on the premise that they acted in breach of sections 177(c) and 221 of the Constitution.
“Section 221 of the Constitution is not to the effect that votes cast during the Governorship election of March 9, 2019 belonged to the 1st Respondent (PDP), but rather to the Appellants.
“Section 177 of the Constitution is all about qualification for a candidate to the Governorship election and has anything to do with punishment for defection”, they argued.
They averred that the trial court erred in law, when it ordered the 1st Respondent (PDP) to submit to the 2nd Respondent (INEC), names of its candidates to replace the Appellants as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State.
They argued that no law gave the court the power to declare anyone that did not participate in all stages of the election, as winner of the said election.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, a three-member panel of justices held that the Nigerian constitution does not provide any punishment for a governor or deputy governor who defects from the party on whose platform he or she was elected into office.
Justice Haruna Tsanami who was on the three-member panel held in the lead judgment that the sole recourse available to a political party aggrieved by the defection of a governor or deputy governor is to explore the constitutional provision of impeachment.
KanyiDaily recalls that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja also sacked 17 lawmakers in Ebonyi who defected from PDP to APC with Governor David Umahi.