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Ebonyi govt berates PDP over statement on Umahi’s defection verdict

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Ebonyi govt berates PDP over statement on Umahi's defection verdict

Ebonyi State government has declared as irresponsible and mischievous the recent statement credited to the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) condemning the February 28, Court verdict upholding Gov. David Umahi’s defection from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

A State High court sitting in Abakaliki, had on Monday, dismissed a suit challenging the defection of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State from PDP to APC, filed by a former APC guber contestant, Sen. Sunny Ogbuoji.

The presiding Judge, Justice Henry Njoku struck out the suit for lacking in merit.

He said that the plaintiff came by originating summons seeking the Court to hold that the defendant, Governor of Ebonyi State, and his deputy having defected to APC from the PDP through which he was elected ought to vacate the office of the Governor upon defection and that the plaintiff having come second in the 2019 election be sworn in instead.

The Court held that having regard to section 188 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the defendant (Governor Umahi) has not offended any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act in his defection to APC.

The Court further held that having regard to section 308 of the Constitution, it is even wrong to institute criminal or civil proceedings against the office of the Governor.

However, the Peoples Democratic Party in the state faulted the state High Court judgement, describing it as a sham.

The state chairman of PDP, Hon Tochukwu Okorie in statement claimed that the judgement was a calculated attempt to frustrate an already existing suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, on the 17th of August 2021, in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/920/2021, between Peoples Democratic Party V Independent National Electoral Commission, Engr David Nweze Umahi and Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

PDP even threatened to petition the said Hon Justice H. A Njoku, to NJC, for allegedly making a caricature of the judiciary, and using his official position to commit, abuse of the process of the court.

In his reaction, the state Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Hon. Uchenna Orji, stated; “we discountenance with utmost responsibility, the press release of Mr. Tochukwu Okorie as absolutely irresponsible, without foundation and mischievously woven to attack the credibility of a robustly contested and well decided matter instituted by legally recognized entities and personalities who are invested with unfettered right under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to sue and be sued.

“We view the press release as a substance less piece calculated to sully the hard earned reputation of the Judge of the State High Court that heard and judicially and judiciously disposed of a matter properly brought before him, and that of the lawyers for both parties who diligently discharged their constitutional duties of legal representation.

“It will be noted that the Judge never acted utra vires and that his court never acted outside the jurisdiction conferred to it by the grundnum itself. Incidentally it has coordinate jurisdiction with the Federal High Court on this matter so, Mr Tochukwu Okorie must know that his disparaging press release is politics taken too far and it goes with legal consequences.

“The press release of Ebonyi State PDP Chairman gave indication that his Party, PDP had filed a suit at Federal High Court Abuja to challenge the defection of our dear Governor His Excellency, Engr. Chief David Nweze Umahi, and his Deputy, His Excellency, Barr. Eric Kelechi Igwe, from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC). In other words, they sought to determine whether by their defection to APC, the ‘PDP’ ought not be sworn-in as the Governor.

“In all of this lengthy press release, the only grouse by Mr. Tochukwu Okorie and Party is that the People’s Democratic Party was not joined in a suit filed by a candidate that came second in an election that produced our dear Governor in 2019. They in effect are saying that the candidate who came second ought to have folded his hands and wait for PDP to be through in the Federal High Court when the law stipulates that should the winner of election cease to hold office as a result of pre- election or election issues, that the candidate who came second will be declared winner.

“While we intend to allow the author of the press release and his advisers to swim in the ocean of ignorance of the law, especially on the jurisprudential values of originating summons and the principles of Green Vs Green on who is a necessary party, we assert that for the sake of the public, the author of the press release and his co-travelers must know that the essence of originating summons is to interpret the constructions of the law or the constitution which is the grundnorm or any other document and to make declarations thereto.

“We assert further that locus standi is a condition precedent for eligibility to sue in this regard and no more. It is further averred that the necessary party or proper party is the party that will be affected by outcome of the decision in a matter having regard to the relief sought by the party(ies) before it. In this case, the candidate recognized by the constitution as a proper party or probable contender for the Governorship position in the pre-election or election matter is the candidate that came second. Section 188 provides the conditions and circumstances when a duly elected and sworn -in Governor and Deputy shall vacate office and it does not apply to issue of defection to another Party.

“We have a plethora of authorities of superior courts which affirmed that no political Party (except Candidates) can be declared the winner of an election. It is a common knowledge that under the constitution, a candidate is declared winner of an election not a political party”.

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