PDP submits Umahi’s replacement to INEC

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Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday declared as illegal, the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe, from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

The court made the order in a judgment on a suit filed by the PDP seeking the removal of Umahi and Igwe from office.

While Umahi, at a press conference in Abakaliki berated the judge and insisted that he remained the state governor, the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said the party had forwarded Umahi and Igwe’s replacements to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Earlier on Tuesday, the FHC Abuja held that the crux of the suit was the defection of the third defendants (governor) and the fourth defendants (deputy governor) from the PDP to the APC.

The judge said the declarations of the third and the fourth defendants did not address the issue of defection rightly and frontally but rather resorted to general denial and affidavit evidence.

Justice Ekwo said the depositions of the third and the fourth defendants in their counter-affidavit were “evasive and insufficient” to competently challenge the plaintiff’s originating process.

He said, “The immunity clause” in Section 308 of the constitution is not absolute. Section 308 is a veritable constitutional shield”, and not for political reasons.

The court said Umahi and Igwe did not controvert the deposition that total votes scored in an election belonged to a political party.

Justice Ekwo said there was enough evidence that the second defendant (the APC) contested the Ebonyi State governorship election held in March 2019, with its own candidates.

He stated, “It can be noted that the constitution does not deal with the issue of defection lightly. The third and fourth defendants cannot transfer the votes and victory of the plaintiff on March 9, 2019, to the APC.

“Offices of the governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State belong to the PDP. The option for Umahi and Igwe is to vacate office and wait for next election to contest election under the platform of its new party”, the court declared.

Consequently, the court declared that under the democratic system operated in Nigeria, the plaintiff won the majority of votes during the election and was entitled to enjoy same till end of tenure of office for which the election was made.

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

In another judgment, the judge sacked 15 members of the state House of Assembly who defected from the PDP to the APC on the same grounds the governor was removed.

At a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the PDP National Chairman, Ayu said, “After due consultations with other colleagues, we are happy to inform you that for the position of governor, the party, after due consultations with stakeholders in Ebonyi State, is putting forward honourable Iduma Igariwe as the new governor,” Ayu said.

“For position of deputy governor, the party is putting forward Mr Fred Udogwu.”

He added that certificates of return should be given to the two nominees.