Defection: As Court Sacked Cross Rivers Lawmakers, Ayade, Matawalle, Other Legislators May Go Next
- On Monday, March 21, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, sacked 20 legislators of the Cross River State House of Assembly over their defection to the ruling APC
- In reaction, the state government wrote to the appeal court seeking for stay of execution against the court's verdict
- In a twist of an event, this movement calls for more case files to be opened for the state governor, Ben Ayade and other governors within the country who defected from the PDP to the APC without prior notice
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As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), continues to launch several legal battles against its former members who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, the fate of top politicians who had for some reasons crossed to the ruling party now hangs in the air.
Recall that the PDP recently got a court ruling in its favour, sacking the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi and his deputy, Eric Igwe.
Their sack followed a suit by the PDP, which argued that their victory under the PDP was not transferrable, hence they should be sacked and the mandate be returned to the PDP on whose platform they won the election.
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While ruling on the matter, the presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, directed that all those who followed Umahi to the PDP were equally affected including the 15 lawmakers in the state Assembly. The Assembly Speaker and other prominent politicians were equally affected in the judgment.
Umahi, Igwe appeal judgment
But Umahi has since appealed the judgment, asking the appellate court to set aside the judgment and to stop INEC from giving back his position and that of his deputy to those recommended by the PDP.
Umahi and Igwe in their argument said the court failed to recognize an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court, citing the case involving the Attorney General of the Federation and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, where the apex court ruled that the constitution does not prohibit president or vice as well as governor and or deputy governor from moving to another political party outside the one which they won an election.
With the sack of Umahi by the court, other political 'actors' including governors and lawmakers who had earlier moved to the APC for whatever reasons have started to jitter.
Court sacks lawmakers
On Monday, March 21, the court again sacked 20 lawmakers who followed Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State from the PDP to the APC.
Legit.ng had reported that Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked the lawmakers. This followed a suit filed by the PDP to challenge the lawmakers’ defection.
The judge dismissed all the preliminary objections raised by the lawmakers who have now lost their seats.
According to the judge, there was no justification for defecting to the APC from the PDP in the first place considering that all lawmakers were having good time in the crisis-free PDP at the time.
Cross River government appeals case
But the Cross River state government, apparently jittered by the development, immediately filed an appeal against the judgment.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr Christian Ita disclosed that the appeal was filed at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The statement further disclosed that a motion for a stay of execution had equally been filed.
Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome filed both processes, says the statement.
The government then urged APC members in both the National Assembly and the Cross River State House of Assembly to continue doing their job freely.
Ayade's fate unknown
With the sack of the lawmakers from his state, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River's fate has continued to hang in the air.
Already, the PDP has approached the court, seeking the governor's sack for moving to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The Nation reports that the suit was instituted before the Federal High Court, Abuja. The party prayed the court to, among others, sack Ayade and his deputy, Ivara Esu, for defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Legit.ng reached out to Ben Ayade through his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Christian Ita on his confidence on the matter, but he had not responded to the WhatsApp chats sent to him yet.
But if everything goes in line with the Ebonyi court ruling that sacked Umahi and his deputy, then Ayade and his deputy may be on their way out of the government house.
Zamfara's Matawalle also next
Despite a Federal High Court ruling in February that struck out a suit asking for the removal of Matawalle for defecting to the APC, a pending suit at the Supreme court will finally decide his fate as the governor of Zamfara state.
The suit by the PDP is accompanied by a 26-point affidavit tendered by the National Secretary of the party, Senator Umar Tsuari.
Joined in the suit were the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; the House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila; the Chief Judge of Zamfara State and the state Assembly Speaker.
Despite the respite for the Governor after the Federal High Court ruling in his favour, the latest sack of the Cross River lawmakers may have sent a powerful message to him that his fate remains unknown despite his initial victory.
Uncertainty as court judgments conflict
Conflicting court judgment has recently become a serious issue in the judiciary as various judgments in the past have had different constitutional interpretations by judges.
While the Federal High Court in Zamfara state had ruled in support of Gov. Matawalle, that there was no part of the constitution prohibiting a governor from defecting to another political party outside the one that elected him into power, an Abuja Federal High Court had ruled in the contrary.
In the case of Umahi vs the PDP, the court had ruled that such defection where there is no crisis was unconstitutional. It further ruled that the victory of Umahi and his deputy at the election could not be transferred to the APC, hence sacking the governor and his deputy.
With conflicting judgments from both cases, the undecided cases involving Ayada and Matawalle remain unpredictable even as concerns have been raised at different quarters on why conflicting judgments have now become the order of the day in the judiciary.
Court Verdict: Governor Umahi Finally Breaks Silence, Says Judge Lacks Power to Remove Him
Earlier, Governor David Umahi has reacted to the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja that declared his seat and that of his Deputy, Kelechi Igwe, vacant.
Governor Umahi said Justice Inyang Ekwo lacks the power to remove him from office and has put the judiciary on trial.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had earlier approached the court, asking for Umahi’s removal after he defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November 2020.