By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
Citing a new decision of the Court of Appeal on defection, a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday declined to declare vacant, the governorship seat of Ben Ayade over his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party PDP to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo departed from his earlier judgment which sacked all members of Cross River Legislators on account of defection and held on to the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered on April 1 to the effect that defection is not an offence under the Nigerian Constitution for now.
The Judge held that governors and their deputies can only be removed from office in line with sections 180, 188 and 189 of the Constitution which stipulated that elective office holders can only be removed from office on account of death, resignation or impeachment.
Justice Taiwo said that since defection is not one of the Constitutional provisions to remove any governor, no court has power to insert such into the Supreme Law.
He however agreed that defection from a winning party to a losing one is immoral, improper and condemnable.
Justice Taiwo agreed with submissions of Mike Ozekhome SAN that judicial precedents of a higher court must be followed by a lower one and be applied in similar matters so as to avoid judicial rascality and anarchy.
The court held that although parties and facts in the matter that led to Court of Appeal’s new decision are fundamentally different from those before it except on defection alone, the application of judicial precedent must be followed and in fact, binding on lower courts.
“In the instant case, since defection is not one of the conditions listed in the 1999 Constitution and since court cannot enact law or insert a new law into the Constitution, I abide by the provisions of sections 180, 188 and 189 to the effect that Governors and Deputies can only be removed from office on either death, resignation or impeachment.
The Judge agreed with the PDP that votes belong
to political parties and that it was immoral and improper for an elected governor to move such votes to a party that lost in the same election but held that such is not an offence known to any law for now.
He refused to grant the request of the PDP to declare the governorship seat of Ayade and his deputy vacant in view of the Court of Appeal’s new decision that defection was moral burden and not an offence.
Justice Joseph Kayode Oyewole of the Court of Appeal, Enugu division, had in a judgment delivered on April 1, 2022 held that defection is not an offence known to any law but a mere exercise of freedom of association as enshrined under section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.