GOVERNOR David Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy Eric Igwe have been sacked by an Abuja court after a judge ruled that their defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC) despite while elected in the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was illegal.
Originally elected in 2015, Governor Umahi and Dr Igwe were returned in 2019 as PDP candidates but shortly after being sworn-in, they defected to the ruling APC. Governor Umahi has since sought the APC’s presidential ticket, hoping to become the party’s flagbearer in the 2023 presidential elections.
However, a spanner has been thrown in the works today as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, removed the governor and his deputy from office. In a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court held that the total number of 393,042 votes Governor Umahi secured in the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial elections in Ebonyi State, belonged to the PDP and could not be legally transferred to the APC.
According to the court, having defected to the APC, both Governor Umahi and his deputy, not only jettisoned the PDP but also the votes that belonged to it. Also, the court 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.
Justice Ekwo said: “There is no constitutional provision that made the ballot transferrable from one party to the other.” He also 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.
Therefore, the court ordered both Governor Umahi and Dr Igwe to immediately vacate their positions. It then ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, to immediately receive from the PDP, names of persons to replace them or in the alternative, conduct a fresh gubernatorial election in Ebonyi State in line with section 177(c) of the 1999 constitution.
In addition, the court further restrained both Governor Umahi and Dr Igwe from further parading themselves as governor or deputy governor of Ebonyi State. Thus landmark judgement followed a suit the PDP lodged before the court, challenging their continued stay in office.