February 28, (THEWILL) -A high court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital, yesterday, quashed a suit seeking to cause Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state and his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe to vacate offices.
The suit was filed by Senator Sunny Ogbuorji who ran for the 2019 governorship alongside Umahi.
He asked that having defected to the All Progressives party (APC) from the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) under which platform he emerged as the governor, he (Umahi) should forfeit the position alongside his deputy.
Delivering the two-hour judgement at the Federal High Court 2, Abakaliki, Justice Henry Njoku made references to similar cases including that of Atiku Abubakar.
He dismissed the case as lacking in merit and awarded five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) as cost in favour of the defendant, Umahi and his deputy.
Though the plaintiff did not come through relevant rules of court to institute their originating summons, the court still went ahead in the interest of substantive justice to hear the matter of the propriety of the defection of Governor Umahi from PDP to APC
The plaintiff sought to determine whether Governor Umahi having defected to APC can still continue to be governor, having regards to the provisions of the constitution and the electoral act as relied upon by the plaintiff and that having come second in the governorship election ought to be sworn in.
The defendant in his argument canvassed that the plaintiff was relying on the pre-election/election qualification issues, arguing that there is no provision in the constitution that provides for defection as one of the grounds for the vacation or removal of a person as governor or as deputy governor.
He alluded to judicial authorities of appellant courts that have settled the matter.
Considering the submissions of both parties, the court held that having regard to section 188 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the defendant (Governor Umahi) has not offended any provision of the constitution or the electoral act in his defection to APC.
The court further held that having regard to section 308 of the constitution, it is even wrong to institute criminal or civil proceedings against the office of the governor. The court therefore dismissed in its entirety.
Lead counsel to the defendants Barr. Roy Umahi stated that, “I don’t see the judgement any differently others than what I had read from several law reports. Every constitutional provision relating to the office of the president and vice president are corresponding provisions relating to the governor and his deputy.”
As far back as 2007 the Supreme Court had ruled that there are no consequences for president and vice president defecting from one political party to another. That also applies to the governor and his deputy. Summary is that the governor and deputy can defect to any political party at any time, even if it’s a day after election.
Reacting to the judgement, Barr. Uchenna Orji explained that the matter was duly dismissed as had been in such other previous cases and would be in any such.