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Defection: Ebonyi State government slams PDP’s position on Umahi

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
06 March 2022   |   2:39 am
Riled by Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) attempt to politicise the recent verdict by Ebonyi State Federal High Court ruling on Governor David Umahi’s defection

Umahi

Riled by Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) attempt to politicise the recent verdict by Ebonyi State Federal High Court ruling on Governor David Umahi’s defection to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), the state government has warned the opposition party to respect the judiciary.

The government maintains that PDP’s frustrations were understandable, stressing that with their eyes beclouded by anger and mischief, the opposition party failed to examine legal positions on the issue of defection before exposing its ignorance.

Chairman of Ebonyi State PDP, Mr. Tochukwu Okorie, had in a press statement alleged that Governor Umahi instigated a member of APC, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, who contested against him in the March 2019 governorship poll, to file a case in court challenging his (Umahi’s) defection from PDP to APC.

Okorie recalled that PDP had earlier filed a suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/920/2021 on August 17, 2021, at the Federal High Court, Abuja against Governor Umahi and his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, stressing that Ogbuoji’s case was filed on February 4, 2022.

While frowning at the judgment delivered by Justice H.A. Njoku, of the High Court of Ebonyi State, on February 28, 2022, in Suit NO HAB/13/2022, which Ogbuoji filed seeking the same reliefs, Okorie said the judgment of the Ebonyi High Court was procured to vitiate the matter at Federal High Court, Abuja.

But responding in a statement made available to The Guardian, Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Mr. Orji Uchenna Orji, noted that there are “a plethora of authorities of superior courts, which affirmed that no political party (except candidates) can be declared the winner of an election.”

Maintaining that it is common knowledge that under the constitution, a candidate is declared winner of an election, not a political party, Orji, lawyer, stated: “We, therefore, use this medium to advert the mind of Mr. Tochukwu Okorie and PDP to the legal consequences of attempting to damage the hard-earned reputation of an erudite Judge and that of the legal practitioners, who are ministers in the temple of Justice.

“In his lengthy press release, Okorie’s only grouse and that of his frustrated party were that PDP was not joined in a suit filed by a candidate that came second in the same election that produced our dear Governor in 2019.

“Their pain is that the candidate who was first runner-up in the poll ought to have folded his hands and waited for PDP’s action at the Federal High Court, when the law stipulates that should the winner of election cease to hold office as a result of pre-election or election issues, the candidate who came second should be declared the winner.
 
“… It will be noted that the Judge never acted utra vires just as his court never acted outside the jurisdiction conferred on it by the grundnum (Constitution) itself. Incidentally, it has coordinated jurisdiction with the Federal High Court on this matter. So, Mr Tochukwu Okorie must know that his disparaging press release amounts to politics taken too far, which attracts legal consequences.”

The Information Commissioner asserted that locus standi is a condition precedent for eligibility to sue, stressing that the proper party is the party that will be affected by the outcome of the decision in a matter having regard to the relief sought by the parties before the court.

“In this case, the candidate recognised by the constitution as a proper party or probable contender for the governorship position in the matter is the candidate that came second.

“Section 188 provides the conditions and circumstances when a duly elected and sworn-in Governor and Deputy shall vacate office and it does not apply to issue of defection to another party.

“PDP has finally sold Mr. Tochukwu Okorie cheap to legal embarrassment. The Ministry of Information and State Orientation, therefore, views the publication of Mr. Tochukwu Okorie as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The outcome will send a red signal to the rest of the political nonconformists in PDP on the gravity of publication of falsehood in the eyes of the law,” he stated.

Barely eight months after Governor Umahi and his deputy officially joined APC, their former party, PDP, has been taking legal steps to sack them on the grounds that the mandates they hold were conferred on PDP.

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