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Sacked Ebonyi gov calls federal judge ‘hatchet man’ while PDP submits replacements to INEC

Sacked Ebonyi gov calls federal judge ‘hatchet man’ while PDP submits replacements to INEC

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday declared the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All-Progressives Congress (APC)as illegal,

The court made the order in a judgment on a suit filed by the PDP seeking the removal of Umahi and Igwe from office.

In a manner that many see as grossly irresponsible, Umahi called a press conference after the judgement where he berated the judge and insisted that he remained the state governor.

Meanwile, the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said the party had forwarded Umahi and Igwe’s replacements to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Earlier on Tuesday, the FHC Abuja held that the crux of the suit was the defection of the governor and his deputy from the PDP to the APC.

The judge said the declarations of the third and the fourth defendants did not address the issue of defection rightly and frontally but rather resorted to general denial and affidavit evidence.

Justice Ekwo said the depositions of the third and the fourth defendants in their counter-affidavit were “evasive and insufficient” to competently challenge the plaintiff’s originating process.

He said, “The immunity clause” in Section 308 of the constitution is not absolute. Section 308 is a veritable constitutional shield”, and not for political reasons.

The court said Umahi and Igwe did not controvert the deposition that total votes scored in an election belonged to a political party.

Votes for parties?

Justice Ekwo said there was enough evidence that APC contested the Ebonyi State governorship election held in March 2019 with its own candidates.

He stated, “It can be noted that the constitution does not deal with the issue of defection lightly. The third and fourth defendants cannot transfer the votes and victory of the plaintiff on March 9, 2019, to the APC.

“Offices of the governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State belong to the PDP. The option for Umahi and Igwe is to vacate office and wait for next election to contest election under the platform of its new party”, the court declared.

Consequently, the court declared that under the democratic system operated in Nigeria, the plaintiff won the majority of votes during the election and was entitled to enjoy same till end of tenure of office for which the election was made.

The court, therefore, restrained Umahi and Igwe from further parading themselves as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State.

In another judgment, the judge sacked 15 members of the state House of Assembly who defected from the PDP to the APC on the same grounds the governor was removed.

Umahi adamant

But Umahi, in his reaction, declared that he was still the governor of Ebonyi State.

He said during a press conference in Abakaliki on Tuesday that he was not surprised that the judge delivered the judgement in favour of the PDP, adding, “Ekwo was charged and needed to discharge.”

According to him, Justice Ekwo was on a mission to embarrass the APC and the federal government, saying, “I feel sorry for the Nigerian judiciary.”

Umahi said he would appeal the judgement by the Federal High Court.

The governor said, “I am still the Governor of Ebonyi State and there is no tension at all. In the first place, there is no constitutional provision for any hatchet man to remove a governor. There are three ways whereby a governor can vacate his office: it’s either by death, resignation and impeachment.

“There is no other constitutional provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the constitution upside down.

“I have listened to the judgement of Inyang Ekwo and it’s 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 heard the rumours before now that he was determined to give judgement against all known laws and the constitution, first to embarrass the APC, and to equally embarrass the federal government.

“We have petitioned the NJC (National Judicial Commission) and we will follow it up to the end to ensure that this man (Ekwo) is brought to justice. I want you to disregard the judgement, because it’s null and void.”

The PDP, in the state, described the ruling as victory for all Ebonyians, saying it marked the end of impunity and rascality.


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