Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), has said Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, who were sacked last week by Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on the grounds of their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), may lose their case at the Court of Appeal.
In the notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal ABJ/CS/920/2021, Umahi and his deputy asked the appellate court to set aside the judgment, stating that the Federal High Court erred when it said it had “not seen any authority which propounds that where governor or deputy governor defects from his political party on which platin Abuja, in suit no: FHC/ form he was elected into office, he cannot be sued by that political party to reclaim its mandate.
“There is no provision in the 1999 constitution (as amended) which states that governor or deputy governor will vacate his office if he defects from his political party to another political party.”
They also said, “The lower court erred in law and overruled the decision of the Supreme Courtof Nigeriawhenitheldthat ownership of votes cast during thegovernorshipelectionof 2019 belongstothe1strespondentand not the appellants.”
They argued that “the Hon trial court relied on AMAECHI v. INEC and FALEKE v. INEC when same are no longer the law on the ownership of votes cast in an election”.
However, speaking with Daily Independent, Sagay said it is likely that the judgment by the Federal High Court may be sustained by the Court of Appeal.
He said Umahi may have a problem in the Court of Appeal because the judgment was in line with the Supreme Court ruling that removed Celestine Omehia and installed Chibuike Amaechi as Rivers State governor.
He said, “I definitely know there will be an appeal on that ground that there is no specific mention of that in the constitution. The judge only did it by implication. It is permissible in law to do it; when the law takes off from one point, you can extend it to another point by implication. I think that is why he is relying on Supreme Court judgment in Amaechi’s case where it was held that it is the parties that are elected”.
“If you go back to that principle alone, then it was the PDP that was elected. That Amaechi’s judgment was a governorship case too just like this one on Ebonyi and it is a very strong point to stand on.
“So, from the look of things, Umahi may have problem in the Court of Appeal because the PDP lawyers will argue that this decision that is being appealed against was based on a Supreme Court decision and so, neither the High Court nor the Court of Appeal can change it. So, I think there is a fairly good chance that this judgment will be sustained”.
On the call by the PDP that Umahi should resign now, Sagay said the governor can’t resign having appealed the judgment within the stipulated time.
“He won’t comply by resigning now. What happened is that in situations like this, the governor has 21 days in which to appeal. Once he appeals within the 21 days, then he can stay in office throughout the course of the appeal,” he said