David Nweze Umahi: The vituperation of a political opportunist
Umahi, Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman, South-East Governors' Forum

Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, on Wednesday, apologized to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over some uncomplimentary remarks he made against justice Inyang Ekwo, the Abuja High Court judge who ordered his removal as governor.

Umahi, who has appealed the court decision, apologised while addressing members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who held solidarity rally for him at the Udensi Rundabout, Abakaliki.

The NBA had in a statement by its president, Olumide Akpata earlier on Wednesday, berated Umahi for attacking the judge and demanded an apology from him.

Speaking at the rally, Umahi said that he has mobilized over seventeen (17) SANs to Appeal the judgement wherein he was sacked for defecting from the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling APC.

He noted that he has no regrets in defecting to the ruling APC and threatened to engage in battle with the opposition party in Ebonyi State, especially for trying to distract his administration.

“I’m still the governor of Ebonyi state and I’m still working. I said the lawyers of PDP are the ones doing forum shopping and I’m going to write against the lawyers to NBA to discipline them because the judge was misled. The blame was not on the judge. The blame is on the PDP lawyers who misled the judge,” he said.

“And I’m using the opportunity to let Nigerians know that nobody castigated the judge and we will not and because the matter was not before any judge.

“Today, we have appealed the judgement. We have done three things; we have done the appeal at Enugu, and when I say that, we have two judgements, I say that the judgement in Ebonyi state, which has equal powers with that of Abuja. We said we will obey the judgement in Ebonyi state. We will appeal the judgement of Abuja. We didn’t say we will disobey otherwise we would have not appealed.

“We are before the Appeal of Enugu state and that of Abuja. We have also filed a stay of execution. So, we are still the governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state” he stated

Recall that NBA in the said statement by its president Akpata earlier on Wednesday, said the governor’s remarks, during a press conference in Abakaliki during which he described the court decision against him as “jungle justice” and Justice Inyang Ekwo, who delivered same as “a hatchet man,” while maintaining that he would not obey the order, were totally unacceptable.

Akpata noted that Umahi was expected to have called for calm from his supporters and assured them that all legal and constitutional avenues would be explored to challenge the judgment but instead gave such a response.

“The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has noted with utter dismay, the unfortunate and totally unacceptable reaction of His Excellency, Dave Umahi to the Judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja delivered on 8th March 2022, coram Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo which inter-alia ordered him and H.E. Mr. Eric Kelechi Igwe to vacate the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively, of Ebonyi State on grounds of their defection from the Peoples’ Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress,” the NBA statement had said.

“Following the Judgment, Umahi, in the course of a Press Conference – video evidence of which is currently making the rounds on both new and mainstream media – threw caution to the wind and deployed very uncomplimentary adjectives and intemperate language in characterising both the Judgment and Hon. Justice Ekwo, including but not limited to describing the Judgment as “jungle justice” and His Lordship as “a hatchet man”.

“As if these were not enough, Engr. Umahi accused the Court of “murdering justice” and also arrogated to himself the judicial powers and magisterial authority to declare the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction as null and void while unashamedly declaring his intention to disregard the Judgment in favour of another.

“To put it plainly, this is impunity of the highest order and executive rascality taken too far.”

Akpata emphasized that the NBA has no interest in the case in question, but cannot watch politicians act in total disregard of judicial pronouncements.

“While the NBA has absolutely no interest in the outcome of the case in question and will continue to stay away from partisan politics, it is inconceivable that this Association that is charged with upholding the rule of law and defending the Judiciary would sit idly by in the face of this unprovoked and totally unwarranted attack on the Judiciary,” he continued.

“Indeed, the leadership of the NBA has been inundated with calls from a cross-section of well meaning Nigerians who are understandably outraged by the utterances of Engr. Dave Umahi and who have rightly demanded that appropriate action be taken to protect the sanctity of the Judiciary.

“It is for this reason that we condemn without equivocation, Engr. Umahi’s unfortunate diatribe which, if it had emanated from an average litigant, would still have been regarded as shocking but coming from one who occupies the exalted office of a State Governor, is nothing short of a national embarrassment.

“In the wake of the Judgment, one would have expected Engr. Umahi to sue for calm from his supporters and to assure them that all legal and constitutional avenues would be explored to challenge the judgment. For H.E. Engr. Umahi to instead resort to attacking and denigrating the high office of a Judge in this unprecedented manner is disgraceful, undemocratic and completely unacceptable.

“As Kayode Eso, JSC of blessed memory famously noted, “[t]he essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear.” We view Engr. Umahi’s reaction to this Judgment as being consistent with the current penchant, on the part of those in the executive arm of government, for intimidating the Judiciary whilst taking advantage of the historical reluctance of that arm of government to rise to its own defence.

“In light of the foregoing, the NBA hereby demands an immediate apology from H.E. Engr. Dave Umahi and a retraction of the comments he made against the person and Judgment of the Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court. It is also our demand that this apology and retraction be given as much media coverage as the Press Conference where the unfortunate comments were made.”

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