The Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, has dismissed an appeal seeking to remove Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, and his deputy Kelechi Igwe from office.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji and his running mate, Mbam Ogodo, had brought the appeal.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice J. O. K. Oyewole, yesterday, the court held that the appellants, Ogbuoji and Ogodo, had no locus standi in their bid to supplant the respondents.
Oyewole said although the defection of the governor and his deputy from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) might appear immoral, the constitution did not provide for their removal from office.
According to him, “Defection of elected executives is not novel in our political system but their removal must be in accordance with the constitution. The defection might appear immoral but they have freedom of association”.
The judge said there were no express constitutional provisions for consequences on the defection of a governor or deputy governor to another party.
He noted that it was not the duty of the court to start making laws or inserting words in the express provision of the constitution.
Umahi and Igwe were governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the PDP in the 2019 election while Ogbuoji and Ogodo were governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the APC. Umahi and his deputy, however, defected to the APC in 2020.
Ogbuoji and Ogodo had through their counsel, Mr. Ogbonnaya Okolie, approached a State High Court in Abakaliki and sought for their removal on the grounds that they abandoned the platforms that brought them to power.
They told the court that Umahi and Igwe, who were sponsored by the PDP in the election, by their actions, had abandoned their seats.
They sought the leave of the court to make declarations that would enable them replace the respondents as governor and deputy governor, respectively.
However, the trial court dismissed their case for lacking in merit. This prompted the case at the Appeal Court.