Abia Onyike, Dave Umahi

Abia Onyike, a former commissioner for information in Ebonyi State, has hailed the sack of David Umahi, governor of the state, by a Federal High Court, as one of the greatest legal pronouncements in the country’s political history.

Onyike, a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, noted that the judgement should serve as a lesson to the governor, who he accused of exhibiting lawless character.

He noted that even if Umahi decides to appeal the judgment, as he is expected to do, the ruling must have taught him some lessons.

“The ruling of the Federal High Court is one of the greatest legal pronouncements in Nigerian Political history. It will expose Gov. Umahi as a political upstart and lawless character whose days in office are numbered,” Onyike said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Whether he apeals or not, this ruling has reduced him to size. He is an anarchist and a bully. Why did he decamp when there was no leadership crisis in PDP? Because he was running away from EFCC inquisition on account of his horrible atrocities in office. The time of reconing has come. Ebonyians must recover from the evil government of Umahi and his retrogressive cabal.”

Umahi, governor, the deputy governor, Dr. Kelechi Igwe and 17 members of the state house of assembly were on Tuesday, sacked by an Abuja High Court for defecting to the All Progressive Congress.

The Ebonyi governor who won a second term seat as governor of Ebonyi under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019, defected to the APC in November 2020, alongside the deputy governor of the state, Kelechi Igwe and 17 members of the state house of assembly, all of whom were sacked by the Abuja High Court on Tuesday.

The court had in a judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the total number of 393, 042 votes governor Umahi secured during the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi state, belonged to the PDP and same could not be legally transferred to the APC.

According to the court, having defected to the APC, both Umahi and his deputy, not only jettisoned the PDP, but also the votes that belonged to it.

It held that going by the outcome of the governorship election, the office of the governor and deputy governor in Ebonyi state, “belong to the Plaintiff and no other politcal party”.

“There is no constitutional provision that made the ballot transferrable from one party to the other”.

It held that the PDP is bound to retain the votes and mandate that was given to it by electorates in Ebonyi state, as both governor Umahi and his Deputy could not validly transfer same to APC.

The court therefore ordered both Umahi and Igwe to immediately vacate their positions.

It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately receive from the PDP, names of persons to replace Umahi and his Deputy, or in the alternative, conduct fresh gubernatorial election in Ebonyi state in line with section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The court further restraining both Umahi and Igwe from further parading themselves as governor or deputy governor of Ebonyi state.

In the case of the 17 lawmakers also sacked on Tuesday, Justice Ekwo held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them, could not transfer the mandate they obtained from the ballot to another political party.

The court held that the Defendants who became members of House of Assembly on the platform of the PDP, could not justify their defection when there was no division in the PDP.

It held that section 109(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution was purposely couched to ensure that defectors were not allowed to retain their seat in the House, unless such defectors are able to justify their action.

Consequently, it ordered the lawmakers to immediately vacate their positions, even as it restrained them from further parading themselves or acting as members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.

The court also made an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to accept from the PDP, a list of its candidates to replace the sacked lawmakers, as well as to issue Certificate of Return to them.

Alternately, the court directed INEC to within 90 days, conduct fresh election in Ebonyi State to fill up the vacant positions.

It further ordered all the lawmakers to refund all salaries and monies they received from the period they defected to the APC.

I remain Ebonyi governor – Umahi

Meanwhile, Umahi governor of Ebonyi State, on Tuesday stressed that he remains the Governor of the State not minding the ruling by the Federal High Court, Abuja

Briefing Newsmen in his office at the new Government House, Abakaliki, Governor Umahi who described the ruling as “jungle justice that was purchased” noted that the ruling was not a good development for the Judiciary
The judgement, by implication, means that governors of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle who defected to the APC from the PDP in June 2021, along with the state’s lawmakers, and Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade who did same in May last year, may suffer similar fate.

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