Defection: Appeal Court throw out suit to remove Gov Umahi, Deputy from office | NN NEWS


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The Appeal Court sitting in Enugu on Friday, April 1, 2022, upheld the ruling of an Abakaliki High Court of Ebonyi State which dismissed a suit challenging the defection of Governor David Umahi and his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Umahi and his deputy had on November 2020 dumped PDP, the platform on which they were elected, for APC, citing injustice meted against the people of South-East zone.

The suit which was filed by Senator Sunny Ogbuoji and his running mate, Mr Justin Mbam Ogodo, the governorship flag bearers of APC in 2019 in Ebonyi State, had through originating summons asked the court to hold that the defendant, Governor Umahi, having defected to APC from PDP, ought to vacate the office so that they would be sworn-in having come second in the election.

But Justice Henry Njoku of the Ebonyi State High Court dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.

Njoku ruled that having regard to Section 188 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the defendants, Governor Umahi and Deputy, had not offended any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act in defecting to 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 on March 7, 2022, filed an appeal against the judgement, at Enugu judicial division of the Appeal Court.

But the Appeal Court on Friday affirmed the ruling of the Abakaliki High Court, saying that Governor Umahi and his deputy did not offend any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act, as there is 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.

The Appellate Court in a unanimous judgement delivered by a three-man panel led by Justice J O K Oyowole 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 is no provision in Sections 180, 188 or 189 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, that empowers the court to remove either a seating governor or the deputy.

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

The court consequently dismissed the appeal and awarded N200,000 against the appellants.

Reacting to the judgement, Counsel to the Defendants, Barrister Roy O. U Nweze, applauded the judgement, saying that it will be a reference point all over the country.

Also, the Appellant’s Counsel, Ogbonnaya Okorie, appreciated the industry of the court in delivering the judgement, adding that he would study the judgement and advise his clients

On his part, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barrister Uchenna Orji, said the judgement was a demonstration of the capacity of the Appellate Court to protect the rule of law as well as the principles of separation of powers.

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