In a tone laced with disdain, the Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi, has accused the judge in Abuja who dethroned him and his deputy as a hatchet man adding, “Ekwo was charged and needed to discharge.”
He promised to appeal the judgement.
At a press conference in Abakaliki, after his sack, on Tuesday, he alleged that Justice Ekwo was on a mission to embarrass the APC and the Federal Government, saying, “I feel sorry for the Nigerian judiciary.”
Governor Umahi, who described the judgement as a ‘sham’, accused the Presiding Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo of doing a hatchet job.
“Nobody can remove me as the governor of the state as we know where the judgement came from.
“Justice Ekwo has more than 10 cases against the state government and we will see where this leads him,”.
The Governor assured his supporters and the people of the state that he would complete his mandate.
“We have petitioned Ekwo before the National Judicial Council (NJC) as his continued stay on the bench is disaster for the country.
“People should not panic as I, the governor, is not distracted at all,” he said.
He said that the development will not affect his presidential ambition, noting that his legal team would appeal the judgement.
“The constitution stipulates that the only way a governor can be removed from office is through death, resignation or impeachment by the state House of Assembly.
“There is no constitutional provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the constitution or law of the land on its head.
“The Supreme Court’s recent judgement on Zamfara among others attests to this fact as I remain the governor of the state.
“I am still the Governor of Ebonyi State and there is no tension at all. In the first place, there is no constitutional provision for any hatchet man to remove a governor. There are three ways whereby a governor can vacate his office: it’s either by death, resignation and impeachment.
“There is no other constitutional provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the constitution upside down.
“I have listened to the judgement of Inyang Ekwo and it’s very obvious that he was on a mission. He was making all efforts to upturn the rulings of the appeal and supreme courts, on issues like this.
“We heard the rumours before now that he was determined to give judgement against all known laws and the constitution, first to embarrass the APC, and to equally embarrass the Federal Government.
“We have petitioned the NJC (National Judicial Commission) and we will follow it up to the end to ensure that this man (Ekwo) is brought to justice. I want you to disregard the judgement, because it’s null and void.”
Recall that a Federal High Court in Abuja Umahi, his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe and 16 members of the State House of Assembly on account of their unlawful defection from the Peoples Democratic Party PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The court declared their mass defection from PDP to APC as unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and ordered them to immediately vacate their offices.
Justice Inyang Ekwo in a judgment on Tuesday ordered Umahi and his deputy to immediately stop holding themselves out as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State.
He also ordered the House of Assembly members not to parade themselves or make any attempt to hold themselves out as legislators of Ebonyi House of Assembly.
The Judge held that the votes that brought them to their respective offices belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party PDP and cannot hold on to the votes having on their own elected to jettison the party that nominated them.
Justice Ekwo held that the votes cast for PDP in the March 9, 2019 governorship election and those for the House of Assembly are not transferrable to the APC that failed in the election.
Justice Ekwo in a separate judgment in a suit by the PDP ordered the Speaker of the House of Assembly and his co-defectors to immediately stop holding themselves out as members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
The court restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognizing or according any recognition to them as elected governor, deputy governor and members of the House of Assembly.
Justice Ekwo ordered that all monies collected from the period of their defection to the judgment date must be recovered from them.
The Court held that in Nigeria, political parties canvass for votes and they are voted for adding that only candidates sponsored by the winning parties can lawfully claim such votes.
In the instant case, Justice Ekwo said that it was the PDP that the people of Ebonyi state voted for and that it is its candidates that can claim the votes.
The Judge said from the evidence before the court, APC did not field Umahi and his co-defectors for the March 9, 2019 and having defected from PDP to APC, cannot take the benefits from the jettisoned party.
Justice Ekwo dismissed the issue of immunity raised by Umahi to shield him from the suit adding that Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution has nothing to do with defection matters.
The Judge also dismissed the claim of Umahi he was a Public Officer and that the suit against him was not competent having not been filed within three months stipulated by the Public Officer Protection Act.
Justice Ekwo held that Umahi cannot take refuge under the Act because defection was not part of the functions he discharged in the course of his office duties.
He stated, “The immunity clause” in Section 308 of the constitution is not absolute. Section 308 is a veritable constitutional shield”, and not for political reasons….
“It can be noted that the constitution does not deal with the issue of defection lightly. The third and fourth defendants cannot transfer the votes and victory of the plaintiff on March 9, 2019, to the APC.
“Offices of the governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State belong to the PDP. The option for Umahi and Igwe is to vacate office and wait for next election to contest election under the platform of its new party”, the court declared
He therefore directed PDP to nominate to INEC fresh people to replace the sacked governor, deputy and the State House of Assembly members.