From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
For the second consecutive times, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has deferred its judgement on the suit by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, filed to declare the seat of governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and his Deputy, Ivara Esu, vacant, following their defection to the ruling All Progressive Congress(APC).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo had originally fixed March 25 to deliver judgment in the case but had to deferred his judgment on the mater till April 6.
However, it was not to be, as the judgment was further put on hold following a letter by Mike Ozekhome SAN, counsel to the governor, drawing the attention of the court to a judgment of the Enugu division of the Court of Appeal delivered in respect of the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state and his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe to the APC.
In the said judgment in reference, the appellate court held that Governor Umahi and his deputy cannot be removed from office on account of their defection.
Rather proceed withe judge therefore, ordered counsel in the suit to address him on the implications of the appellate court’s judgment on the present case.
The development created a state of confusion and anxiety supporters of both parties to the suit who had besieged the court for the judgment.
Ozekhome prayed the court to bow and respect the decision of the higher Court of Appeal on defection related matter.
While addressing the court on the effects of the Court of Appeal judgment on the defection suit against governor Ayade, he asked Justice Taiwo to apply the higher court decision to dismiss the suit against his client.
Besides, he further drew the attention of the Judge to a portion of the Court of Appeal judgment which held that under the amended Constitution, votes cast in any election belong to individuals and not political parties.
He further pointed out a portion to Justice Taiwo where the Court of Appeal held that political parties are agents of individuals and just vehicles for individual contestants to canvas for votes.
Ozekhome insisted that sections 180, 188 and 189 of the 1999 Constitution can only be invoked by the court to remove an elected governor only where such governor resigns, dies or is impeached by a State House of Assembly.
He added that Supreme Court had in recent decisions made it clear that defection is immoral, improper, ugly and condemnable but did not constitute an offence that can lead to the removal of elective public officeholders.
“My Lord, I humbly urge you to bow and respect the latest Court of Appeal judgment as a judicial precedent to resolve the instant case in favour of governor Ayade and his deputy.
“Supreme Court has in a plethora of authorities said that a lower court not applying judicial precedent of a higher court is nothing but judicial rascality that can lead to anarchy and I urge Your Lordship not to fall into that category.”
A similar position was canvassed by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and the All Progressives Congress APC.
Earlier, PDP Counsel, Emmanuel Ukala SAN had argued that the facts of the case which led to the Court of Appeal’s new judgment are fundamentally different from the suit of his client.
Ukala informed the high court that the Court of Appeal’s new decision was based on a suit by APC against APC where the instant suit is PDP against APC.
He further submitted that PDP was not a party in the Court of Appeal decision, hence, the new judgment is not binding on it for the simple reason of lack of fairness.
Ukala urged the Judge to hold that defection constitutes an offence as it amounts to the abdication of duties as a party with minority votes should not be allowed to rule over the party with majority votes.
After taking arguments for and against the new Court of Appeal decision, Justice Taiwo shifted judgment till April 7 to enable him consider the impacts of submissions by lawyers and the judicial authorities they cited.
The PDP is in its suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/975/2021, praying the court to sack both Ayade and his deputy, contending that the duo, having abandoned the political party that sponsored their re-election, ought to vacate their respective offices.
It is among other things, seeking; “A declaration that in view of the provisions of section 221 of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the democratic system of governance operated in Nigeria, votes at the election and elections are won by political parties and not their candidate or the candidates sponsored at the election by the political parties”.
is praying the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately, “receive from the plaintiff (PDP), the name of its candidates to replace the 3rd and 4th defendants (Ayade and Esu) for the purpose of utilising the lawful votes cast in favour of the plaintiff or in the alternative directing the 1st defendant to hold a gubernatorial election for Cross River State in accordance with Section 177 of the Constitution excluding the 3rd and 4th defendants who are disqualified from participating in the election by virtue of Section 192 (1) (b) of the Constitution) arising from abandonment of the majority lawful votes and the offices occasioned by the action of the 3rd and 4th defendants by reason of their becoming members of the 2nd defendant who did not win majority of the lawful votes cast at the election”.
Aside from Ayade and his deputy, the INEC and APC were also cited as Defendants in the matter.
will be recalled that Justice Taiwo had in a judgement he delivered last Monday, sacked two federal lawmakers and 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly, following their defection from the PDP to the APC.
100% Natural Herbs to Finally End Premature Ejaculation, Weak Erection and Small Manhood. >>>Click Here for Details.
The two members of the House of Representative the court ordered to vacate their seats, were; Hon. Michael Etaba (representing Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency) and Rt. Hon. Legor Idagbor (representing Obudu/Obaliku/Bekwara Federal Constituency).
While the 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly the court sacked on Monday, were; Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah William, Rt. Hon. Joseph Bassey, Rt. Hon. Okey Peter Agbe, Rt. Hon. Okon Ephraim, Rt. Hon. Regina Anyogo, Rt. Hon. Mathew Olory, Rt. Hon. Expo Ekpo Bassey, Rt. Hon. Ogbor Ogbor Udop, Rt. Hon. Ekpe Charles Okon, Rt. Hon. Hillary Ekpang Bisong, Hon. Francis Asuquo, Hon. Elvert Ayambem, Hon. Davis Etta, Hon. Sunday Achunekan, Hon. Cynthia Nkasi, Hon. Edward Ejang, Hon. Chris Nja-Mbu Ogar, and Hon. Maria Akwaji.
Their sack followed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/975/2021, which was filed by the PDP.
Premature Ejaculation & “Small Joystick” Resolved in 7Days… Click Here For Details .
The court held that the Defendants, having decamped from the political party that sponsored their election before the expiration of the period for which they were elected, “have by virtue of the provisions of section 68(1) (g) and section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) respectively, vacated their seats and are not entitled to continue to occupy the various seats or offices into which they were elected”.