On Monday the Abakaliki Division of the Ebonyi State High Court dismissed a suit challenging the defection of Governor David Umahi from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Court held that the Governor has not flouted any provision of the electoral act or the constitution to warrant his removal from office.
Umahi, had in November 2020, dumped the PDP upon which he was elected two terms and moved over to the APC.
Consequently, the plaintiff, Senator Sunny Ogbuoji, approached the Court by way of originating summons praying the court to hold that the Governor having defected to APC from the PDP through which he was elected ought to vacate the office of the Governor upon defection.
He also prayed the Court to order for his swearing in behaving come second in the 2019 election.
Senator Ogbuoji was the APC’s governorship candidate during the 2019 election.
But Governor Umahi in his defence argued that the plaintiff was relying on the pre-election/election qualification issues which ought not to be.
He further argued 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 cited certain judicial pronouncements on similar matters especially at Appellant Courts.
In his judgement, Justice Henry Njoku, noted that the plaintiff did not come through relevant rules of Court to institute the originating summons.
He said that the irregularities notwithstanding, the Judge said the Court decided to entertain the suit in the interest of justice.
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 the governor having regard section 308 of the Constitution is covered by the immunity clause anf as such it was wrong to institute criminal or civil proceedings against the office of the Governor.
The Judge, therefore, dismissed in its entirety, the suit filed by the plaintiff for lack of merit.
He also awarded N500, 000.00 as damages against the plaintiff.
Reacting, the lead counsel to the defendants, Barr. Roy Umahi, said he didn’t see the judgement any differently other than what he had read from several law reports.
“Every constitutional provision relating to the office of President and Vice president , they are corresponding provision 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,” he said