ebonyi-umahi-deputy-lawmakers-ask-court-of-appeal-to-set-aside-judgment-removing-them-from-office

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From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

Ebonyi Governor David Umahi and Deputy Governor Dr Eric Igwe have asked the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court which ordered them to vacate their respective offices.

In a notice of appeal filed by their counsel, Chukwuma Ma-Chukwu Ume, SAN, the appellants have challenged the entire judgment delivered on Tuesday by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja High Court.

Ume equally filed a separate notice of appeal on behalf of the 16 state lawmakers that were removed by the judgment of the Federal High Court.

The appeal by Umahi and Igwe which was predicated on 11 grounds said the judge erred in law in arriving at its decision as “there is no provision of the 1999 Constitution that provides for the removal of the appellants as sitting Governor and deputy governor respectively of Ebonyi state for the reason of defection.

They submitted that the trial judge set aside the Supreme Court decision in AG Federation V Atiku Abubakar & 3 ors (2007) LCN/3799/(SC), to the effect that there are no constitutional provisions prohibiting President or Vice and invariably the Governor and or deputy from defecting to another political party or meeting out punishment for doing same.

Ume urged the appellate court to hold that the trial judge erred in law by holding that ‘I have not seen any authority which propounds that where a Governor or Deputy Governor defects his political party on which platform he was selected into office, he cannot be sued by that political party to reclaim its mandate….section 308 of the 1999 constitution did not envisage such a situation.’

In addition, it is the contention of the appellants that the trial court erred in law when it assumed jurisdiction on the issue of defection when it has no jurisdiction.

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That the trial court erred and misdirected itself when it relied on sections 68 and 109 of the 1999 constitution in holding that the appellants having defected from the 1st respondent (PDP) to the 3rd respondent (APC), offended the provisions of the Constitution and must vacate their offices as Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively.

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The senior lawyer submitted that there is no specific mention of Governor and Deputy Governor in the provisions of sections 68 and 109 respectively of the 1999 Constitution.

Ume further argued that by relying on the above constitutional provisions, ‘the trial court assumed the role of the legislator and arrogated to itself the powers of amendment of the Constitution.’

The appellants equally argued that the 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 belongs to the PDP and not the appellants.

That the trial court relied on Ameachi V INEC and Faleke V INEC when same are no longer the law on the ownership of votes cast in an election.

That in Ngige V Akunyile (2012) 15 NWLR pt.1323-343 the Court of Appeal held: ‘The above provisions show that a political party canvases for votes on behalf of the candidate. In other words, a political party is nothing more than an agent of the candidate in gathering votes to an election;

‘That the trial court erred in law when it restrained the appellants from carrying on the duties in their offices as Governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state on the basis that the appellants offended the provisions of section 177(c) and 221 of the 1999 Constitution;

‘That the trial court erred in law when it ordered appellants to vacate their respective offices as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi state and 1st respondent (PDP) to submit to submit to 2nd respondent (INEC), names of its candidates to replace appellants as Governors and deputy governors of Ebonyi state;

‘That Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and section 285(13) of the 1999 Constitution states: “An election tribunal or court shall not under any circumstances declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election.”‘

Meanwhile, some senior lawyers in condemning the judgment of the trial court said it cannot stand the scrutiny of the appellate courts.

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