The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, on Friday, hailed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, which nullified his earlier sacking from office by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court had sacked Umahi and his deputy, Eric Igwe, after they decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party on whose platform they were elected to the All Progressives Congress.
The judge said Umahi’s defection from the PDP to the APC after winning the election on PDP platform amounted to transferring PDP votes to APC, which he said was unconstitutional.
Citing Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution,Justice Ekwo declared that in the democratic system of governance that Nigeria operates, votes are won by political parties and not their candidates.
Aside from directing the PDP to submit to INEC names to replace Umahi and Igwe, the judge also issued an order of perpetual injunction, restraining Umahi and Igwe from further parading themselves as governor and deputy governor respectively of Ebonyi State.
But the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Haruna Tsanami, faulted and overturned the judgment of Justice Ekwo of the lower court.
The appellate court held that there was no constitutional provision for the removal of an incumbent governor or deputy governor that dumped the political party that sponsored them to power.
According to the court, the only option available to a political party aggrieved by the defection of a governor or deputy it sponsored to power, is for such party to explore the option of impeachment as provided in the constitution.
Reacting to the appellate court’s verdict on Friday, Umahi as a sound defence of Nigeria’s constitution.
The governor’s Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Chooks Okoh, quoted his principal as lauding the judgment, describing it as “a sound juridical articulation which reinforces the provisions of the nation’s constitution in matters relating to defection.”
But a former Commissioner for Information in the state, Chief Abia Onyike, who is a PDP stalwart, described the judgment as “a temporary political respite” for Umahi, saying he was confident that the Supreme Court would overturn the judgment.
“Well, you don’t expect or me any Ebonyi to be jubilant over the Court of Appeal’s judgement. Nonetheless, the court has decided and we have to respect the judgment of the court. We will still have our day at the Supreme Court. And so, it can’t be Uhuru yet for Umahi and his political camp, because it’s just a temporary political respite.”