The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reversed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja sacking Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy Dr Kelechi Igwe for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, o f the All Progressives Congress, APC.
IsL source reports that Justice Inyang Ekwo while delivering judgement in a suit challenging the defection of Umahi with the PDP governorship mandate to another party, held that the 393,042 votes polled by Umahi in the 2019 governorship election belonged to the PDP and cannot be legally transferred to the APC, which the governor defected to.
Recall that Umahi left the PDP in November 2020 attributing the action to the “injustice” done to the southeast region of the country.
Consequently, the PDP instituted a suit against the governor, his deputy, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, the PDP asked 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, they have resigned or were deemed to have resigned from office.
In the judgment, the court held that having defected to the APC, both Umahi and his deputy, not only dumped the PDP, but also the votes that belonged to it.
It held that going by the outcome of the governorship election, the office of the governor and deputy governor in Ebonyi state, “belongs to the plaintiff and no other political party.”
“There is no constitutional provision that made the ballot transferrable from one party to the other,” Ekwo held.
The judge held that the PDP is bound to retain the votes and mandate that was given to it by the electorate in Ebonyi state, as both the governor and his deputy cannot validly transfer the same to the APC.
The court consequently ordered Umahi and Igwe to immediately vacate their positions.
The court also ordered INEC to immediately receive from the PDP, the names of persons to replace Umahi and his deputy, or in the alternative, conduct a fresh governorship election in Ebonyi state in line with section 177 (c) of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
The duo of Umahi and Igwe were restrained from further parading themselves as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state.
Governor subsequently appealed the lower court decision before an Abuja division of the Court of Appeal.
However, ruling on the appeal on Friday, a three-member panel of the appellate court held reversed the lower court’s judgment, adding that the nation’s Constitution does not provide any punishment for a governor or deputy governor who defected from the party on which platform they got to the office.
Justice Haruna Tsanami, who read the lead judgment, held that the only option opened to a political party, aggrieved by the defection of a governor or deputy governor, is to explore the impeachment option provided for in the Constitution.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja aligned with an earlier decision on the same issue given by the court’s Enugu division, IsL source reports.