A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Monday declared the seats of 20 lawmakers from Cross River state vacant for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The affected lawmakers defected alongside Governor Ben Ayade to the APC.
A similar judgement was given in favour of PDP against Ebonyi state Governor Dave Umahi, his deputy and the state lawmakers who defected to the APC.
The trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judgment, dismissed the defence argument that the PDP (plaintiff) had no locus standi (legal rights) to institute the case.
Justice Taiwo declared that the lawmaker’s argument that there was rancour in the PDP, which necessitated their defection to APC, was a ploy to mislead the court.
The judge, who granted all the reliefs sought by the PDP, held that it was disheartening that politicians in the country treat citizens as if they do not matter once they get into office.
The judge said: “We cannot continue in sin and expect grace to abound.”
Two members of the House of Representatives and 18 Cross River House of Assembly members were affected by the judgment.
We‘re not aware – Speaker
In a reaction, Speaker Cross River House of Assembly Eteng Jonah-Williams said he is not aware of any court judgment sacking him or any member of the House.
Jonah-Williams said this Monday in an interview in Calabar.
“As far as I am concerned, I am not aware of any court judgment sacking me or any member because we have not been served with any court order as we speak,” he said.
In yet another reaction, a PDP lawmaker representing Obubra 2 State Constituency, Francis Ovat, has hailed the judgment as sound.
“If you are elected into a political party and you hold the people’s mandate, it is wrong for you to jump from one party to the other. Elected officials should learn to stay in one party.
“If there is any rancour or crisis in their party, they should stay in the party and resolve it. Jumping from one party to the other kills democracy. The judgment is a good one and it came right on time,” Ovat said.
Umahi fails again
Also, another Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has struck out the motion filed by sacked Governor Umahi, seeking a stay of execution of the March 8 judgment.
The motion was struck out by Justice Inyang Ekwo after Chukwuma Ma-Chukwu Ume (SAN) to Umahi and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, prayed the court for the withdrawal of the motion.
The motion for stay of execution was marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/920/21, between PDP Vs INEC and three others.
At the proceeding Monday, the PDP’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ukala(SAN), did not oppose the application by Ume.
Justice Ekwo had, in a judgment March 8, ordered Umahi; his deputy, Kelechi Igwe and 16 lawmakers to vacate their office and seats, following their defection from the PDP to the APC.
The judge also directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately receive from the PDP the names of its candidates to replace the duo.
However, on March 10, Governor Umahi and others sought an order of the FHC Abuja, staying the execution of its judgment directing them to vacate their offices over their defection to another political party.
In a motion on notice filed by Ume, the applicants also prayed the court to stay the execution of its order directing INEC to receive other names in their place or hold a governorship election in accordance with Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal dated and filed on March 9 by the appellants, among others.
Ume also sought a withdrawal of the stay of execution motion filed on behalf of the lawmakers marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1041 between PDP vs. INEC and 20 others.
At the resumed hearing, Ume informed the court of his intention to withdraw the two motions for stay of execution dated March 9 on the grounds that an appeal had been entered at the Court of Appeal on the matter.
And Ukala, the PDP’s counsel, did not oppose the application.
Ume had, on Wednesday, approached the court to withdraw the stay of execution motion filed on Umahi’s behalf due to a mistake in the application.
But Justice Ekwo had since struck out the matter.
PDP wants INEC’s certificate of return
And in a reaction, the PDP has charged INEC to issue Certificates of Return to Hon. Iduma Igariwey and Fred Udogwu as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state respectively without delay.
PDP said: “INEC, pursuant to the provision of Section 287(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that “the decisions of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and of all other courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and those other courts, respectively” is bound to issue Certificates of Return immediately to Hon. Iduma Igariwey and Fred Udogwu as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State respectively.”
In this regard, PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, Monday demanded that the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, upon the issuance of Certificates of Return by INEC, proceed to swear in Igariwey and Udogwu.
PDP said, “This is necessary to prevent the existence of vacuum in the government and governance of Ebonyi State as Umahi and Igwe can no longer exercise the functions of the office of Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State pursuant to the Order of the Federal High Court which removed them from office on March 8, 2022 and the subsequent Order of the Federal High Court today, which refused their application for Stay of Execution.”
The party also commended the judiciary for its courage in defending the Constitution as well as the will of the people of Ebonyi state as expressed in their votes for the PDP in the 2019 governorship election.
“Our Party also congratulates the people of Ebonyi State for the restoration of their mandate and urged them to remain united under the PDP as we forge ahead in our mission to Rescue and Rebuild our country from the rudderless APC administration,” it added.