The Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; his deputy, Eric Igwe; and members of the House of Assembly in the state, must maintain status quo antebellum and await the ruling of the Appeal Court in Abuja, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, has said.
HURIWA, in a statement on Tuesday by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, also said the governor, his deputy and the state lawmakers are constitutionally entitled to challenge a court ruling sacking them because they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress in December 2020.
The group said the PDP must quit the unnecessary propaganda and stop coercing the Independent National Electoral Commission to bring in its candidate. The Rights group also cautioned against stampeding the Justices of the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court to reach a determination that is guided by sentiments and emotions. HURIWA said the matter is such that requires that the Justices not to be unduly influenced or misguided by coordinated media bombardments.
“What the governor has set out to do is to test the viability of the constitutional concept of due process. All parties must maintain status quo ante bellum till the ruling of the Appeal Court,” Onwubiko stressed in the statement.
It would be recalled that Umahi had, in the aftermath of the judgement last Tuesday, faulted the verdict and vowed to institute an appeal. This is even as Ebonyi State government, described the verdict against the governor and his deputy as an attempt to heat up the polity in the state.
Umahi and his deputy, through their team of lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chukwuma Ume, in their eight grounds of appeal, maintained that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, erred in law in his judgement and caused a grave miscarriage of justice against them.
They argued that the trial court, in ordering them to vacate their offices, based on the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/920/2021, attempted to overrule a subsisting decision of the Supreme Court in AG Federation v. Atiku Abubakar & 3 ORS (2007) LCN/3799 (SC).
They contended that the apex court had in its decision, held that no constitutional provision prohibited a sitting president or vice president, and invariably, governor or deputy governor, from defecting to another political party.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “This right of appeal is what Umahi, and his deputy have approached the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgement that sacked them from their respective offices over defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
“It is public knowledge that the appellants are canvassing before the Court of Appeal the position that the trial high court judge erred, when he held thus, ‘I have not seen any authority which propounds that where a governor or deputy governor defects his political party on which platform he was elected 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.”
“The trial court ought to have dismissed the case of the PDP in view of the clear provision of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“The provisions of Section 308 are specific, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, but subject to subsection (2) of this section, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against 3rd and 4th Appellants during their mandate in office as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively.
“There is no provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that provides for the removal of 3rd and 4th appellants as sitting governor and deputy governor respectively of Ebonyi State for reason of defection, as prayed by the Appellants.
“We in the civil Rights body are calling on all parties to respectively due process and there is need for all parties to maintain decorum and allow the judiciary to decide the appeal one way or the other because it is unconstitutional to try to preempt the decision of the Appellate courts.”