Defection: Court Sacks Umahi, Deputy, 17 Lawmakers; Orders INEC to Conduct Elections to fill Vacancies

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THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, presided over by His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo on Tuesday sacked Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, his Deputy, Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe, and 17 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly following their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

The court held that the total number of 393, 042 votes garnered by Governor Umahi and his deputy during the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State belonged to the PDP and therefore cannot be legally transferred to the APC.

The court further held that having defected to the APC, both Umahi and his deputy not only jettisoned the PDP, but also the votes that belonged to it. It also held that going by the outcome of the governorship election, the office of the governor and deputy governor in Ebonyi State, “belong to the Plaintiff and no other political party”.

“There is no constitutional provision that made the ballot transferrable from one party to the other”.

It held that the PDP is bound to retain the votes and mandate that was given to it by electorates in Ebonyi State, as both Governor Umahi and his deputy could not validly transfer same to APC. The court therefore ordered both Umahi and Igwe to immediately vacate their positions.

It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to immediately receive from the PDP, names of persons to replace Umahi and his Deputy, or in the alternative, conduct fresh gubernatorial election in Ebonyi State in line with section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The court further restrained both Umahi and Igwe from further parading themselves as governor or deputy governor of Ebonyi State.

For the 17 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly who had on November 17, 2020 defected from the PDP to the ruling APC to show their loyalty to Governor Umahi, Justice Ekwo held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them, could not transfer the mandate they obtained from the ballot to another political party.

It held that the defendants who became members of House of Assembly on the platform of the PDP could not justify their defection when there was no division in the PDP.

It held that section 109(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution was purposely couched to ensure that defectors were not allowed to retain their seat in the House, unless such defectors are able to justify their action.

The court held that the case PDP brought against them succeeded.

Consequently, it ordered the lawmakers to immediately vacate their positions, even as it restrained them from further parading themselves or acting as members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.

The court also made an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept from the PDP a list of its candidates to replace the sacked lawmakers, as well as to issue Certificate of Return to them. Alternately, the court directed INEC to within 90 days, conduct fresh election in Ebonyi State to fill up the vacant positions.

It further ordered all the lawmakers to refund all salaries and monies they received from the period they defected to the APC.

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