Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC); Malachy Ugwummadu, immediate past president, Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), and Hannibal Uwaifo, President of the African Bar, on Tuesday said they agree with the court ruling sacking Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe.
Sagay, while arguing that the provision that governors should resign after defecting from their political party is not mentioned in the constitution as it only specifically said lawmakers, however, said the principle is a good one as it has been established in the case of Rotimi Amaechi versus Celestine Omehia.
He also said Umahi and his deputy can appeal the judgment within the stipulated time allowed in the constitution.
“That judgment has been established by the Supreme Court in Amaechi’s case. The constitution specifically stated that when an elected member of the National Assembly changes from one party to another, he will lose his seat and will have to recontest it, unless there is a split in his party and a faction of it decides to join another party. That is the provision of the constitution. No reference was made to governors.
“So, what this judge has done is to extend to governors a provision which is specifically addressed to National Assembly. In my view, there is a little bit of judicial legislation going on here because governors were not mentioned in the constitution even though I don’t know why that was so.
“However, the principle that if you are elected on the platform of one party, you shouldn’t change to another party without resigning is a good one. I think it was an unfortunate omission that the governors were not included. But I agree with the judge that the same principle applies, both as a principle of law and morality. But I definitely know there will be an appeal on that ground that there is no specific mention of that in the constitution”.
Malachy Ugwummadu, immediate past president, Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), said the judgment is a very interesting and intriguing development.
“It seems to have critically taken into account the fact that elections are won in Nigeria on the platforms of political parties. According to section 222 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, political parties are the vehicles to access political power and having emerged as a Governorship candidate or deputy Governorship candidate, respectively, it is believed that the PDP won the election and it should be in Government in Ebonyi State.
“The idea of defecting from that same platform on which he emerged as the Governor cannot be tenable in the sense that you cannot separate yourself from the political party that brought you to power.
“This is talking about Governorship, it is not exactly the situation with members of the legislators both at state and federal level where a legislator can decamp from his political party to yet another if he is unable to justify that the party based on which he came into power has gone into disarray.
“There is no such constitutional provision in relations to the Governor and the deputy’s positions, but the court revalidates the position of our law that election into executive positions are formed on basis of political system and you cannot begin to jump from one party to another. This is regardless to what your right to freedom of association says.
“Again, section 177(c) of the constitution in relation to this matter also says such a person must be a member of a political party and he must be sponsored by that party. So, at the time he contested he was a member of the PDP, when he defected and jumped into another party, could he still retain his identity as a member of the political party, that is contradictory; and now that you are on the other side, which party do you lay claim on? I think it’s to avoid that kind of controversy that the court has come to such conclusion. Like I said, it will continue to be debated because the law did not talk about what happens when a Governor defects in such a situation”, he said.
President of the African Bar, Mr. Hannibal Uwaifo, said the court has just interpreted what the law says on such matter.
“You are not supposed to defect from a political party that brought you into office, thinking you can get away from it.”