Abuja, Nigeria – The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reversed the judgment of the Abuja Federal High Court, sacking Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, and his deputy, Eric Kelechi Igwe.
Recall on March 8, Justice Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja ordered Mr Umahi to vacate office following his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A three-member panel of the appellate court on Friday ruled that the only option open to an aggrieved political party due to a governor’s defection is that of impeachment as provided by the constitution.
The panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, held that no punishment was provided in the 1999 constitution for the defection of a governor from the political party they were elected from.
In the March 8, judgement Justice Ekwo declared that having defected from the PDP, under which platform they came into power, to the APC, the duo were deemed to have resigned from the office and, hence, no longer entitled to be called the governor or deputy governor.
The judge said it was constitutionally wrong for a candidate elected into an office on a platform of a political party to defect to another political while still holding on to the office adding that the votes gotten by Umahi and Igwe on March 9, 2019, were PDP votes and not APC.
Justice Ekwo, who described their defection as unconstitutional, ordered the PDP to present another candidate or in the alternative, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct a fresh poll within 90 days.
Reacting to the judgement on the same day, Mr Umahi said the court lacked the powers to remove him as Governor as he is covered by an immunity clause which protects him from any form of litigation that is not a pre-election or tribunal matter.
He noted that the only way a governor can be removed from office as provided by the constitution is through death, resignation or impeachment by the state House of Assembly.
He urged the people not to panic saying he was not distracted by the judgement.
Subsequently, he approached the Appellate court seeking to overturn the decision of the lower court.
In its judgement, the court of appeal set aside the decision of the lower court which sacked Mr Umahi and his deputy.