Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi and his Deputy, Mr Eric Igwe have asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja which ordered their removal from office.
The governor and his deputy, in a notice of appeal filed by their counsel, Mr Chukwuma MaChukwu- Ume, SAN, on March 9, are challenging the entire judgment delivered on March 8 by Justice Inyang Ekwo.
Similarly, the senior lawyer filed another notice of appeal on behalf of the 16 lawmakers who were equally removed from the state assembly by the judgment.
The appellants, in their appeal, which was predicated on 11 grounds said that the court erred in law and misdirected itself in arriving at its decision as there was no provision of the 1999 Constitution that provided for the removal of the appellants as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi for the reason of defection.
The appellants submitted that the lower court set aside the Supreme Court judgment in AG Federation vs Atiku Abubakar and three others (2007) LCN/3799(SC).
This, they said, was to the effect that there was no constitutional provision prohibiting the president or vice president and invariably a governor and or deputy governor from defecting to another political party or meting out punishment for doing the same.
The appellants argued that the lower court erred in law when it assumed jurisdiction over the issue of the defection of the appellants when it had no jurisdiction over the same.
The appellants also faulted Justice Ekwo for relying on Sections 68 and 109 of the 1999 Constitution in holding that having defected from the PDP to the APC, the appellants offended provisions of the constitution and must vacate their offices as governor and deputy governor.
They claimed that the lower court misdirected itself because there was no specific mention of the governor and deputy governor in the provisions of Section 68 and 109 respectively of the 1999 Constitution.
“By relying on Sections 68 and 109 of the Constitution, the trial court assumed the role of the legislator and arrogated to itself the powers of constitution amendment.
“There is no provision in the 1999 Constitution which states that governor or deputy governor will vacate his office if he defects from his political party to another political party,’’ they held.
The appellants equally argued that the lower court erred in law and overruled as well as set aside the decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal when it held that ownership of vote cast during the governorship election belonged to the PDP and not to the appellants.
That the trial court relied on Ameachi V INEC and Faleke V INEC when the same was no longer the law on the ownership of votes cast in an election.
They further contended that the trial court erred in law when it ordered them to vacate their respective offices as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi and that the PDP should submit to INEC, names of its candidates to replace the appellants as governors and deputy governor of Ebonyi.
Meanwhile, some senior lawyers have said that the judgment of the lower court cannot stand the scrutiny of the appellate courts.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in the judgment held that by defecting from the party on which they were sponsored and elected as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State to the APC, a political party that did not win the election, they had resigned or are deemed to have resigned from office.
The court ordered the Peoples Democratic Party to nominate candidates to replace Umahi and Kelechi as Governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi respectively.
The court said the PDP should send such names to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
The court further restrained INEC from recognizing Umahi and Igwe as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state.
In an originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/920/2021, the PDP had principally urged the court to make a declaration that by defecting from the party on which they were sponsored and elected as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State to the APC, a political party that did not win the election, they had resigned or are deemed to have resigned from office.
The plaintiff stated that “by so doing, the defendants are deemed to have lost the majority votes scored at the election and consequently should be ordered by the court to vacate their respective offices like governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi.”(NAN)