Sunday, 13 March 2022

Purported Removal of Umahi and His Deputy By Justice Inyang: A Big Slap on Mother Justice - Angela Odey

Dave Umahi

Since the funny news of the purported removal of the sitting  Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Dave Umahi and his Deputy, on account of defection to APC, the social media and electronic media spaces have been awash with arguments - both amongst lawyers and opinion holders, as to whether the decision of the court is constitutional or not.

The argument of Justice Inyang was that the governor and his deputy cannot enjoy a mandate that was sponsored by a party they have defected from, holding that the party is not just a vehicle for running election, but remains the sole proprietor of the votes, despite the constitutional provisions on the tenure, which according to the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is pegged at 4 years, amongst other things. 

To Chief Mrs Angela Ogeyi Odey, DG, Cross River School to Land, based on her understanding of the interpretation of the constitution by renowned legal luminaries such as Mike Ozekhome, she is confident the March 7 pronouncement remains a big slap on Mother Justice, the symbol of justice. 

In what she described as the cry of a hungry baby that needs the mother's attention, she described the plaintiff as apologists and attention seekers who intend to distract Governor Umahi from the excellent and unprecedented performances in Ebonyi State. 

She said; "I have read with awe, the sound  interpretation and position of the human right advocate, Mike Ozekhome on this matter and even as a layman in the legal field, I don't think there can be any superior argument, except such argument brought outside of the Nigerian jurisprudential system." 

"From the argument highlighted by the learned lawyer, I continue to wonder if the decision of the court is with reference to the same constitution that has been referenced severally or is based on the sentiment of certain individuals or the Judge", she said.

She further outlined some facts drawn from arguments by lawyers in favour of the governor to include:

1. Provision of Section 180 and 188 of the 1999 Constitution that a governor and his deputy can ONLY be removed from office on the ground of death, impeachment based on gross misconduct, permanent inability to perform his function, resignation or after 4 year, at the end of his tenure;

2. The judgement cannot survive appellate scrutiny  based on the doctrine of stare decisis and precedents, which were apparently ignored;

3. The party cannot lay claim to the mandate, in stating that the votes are not transferable, on the ground that the votes belong to it; since members of other political parties and non-partisan people of Ebonyi also voted during the election (Section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010).

4. The appellate courts have since held that votes belong to a live candidate (in this case, Gov. Umahi) and not a political party (PDP), which merely served as a vehicle for him becoming a governor. (Nnankwo & Amor v. INEC &ORS(2019).

5. The position of the apex court on whether a President, Vice President, Governor or his Deputy can defect from his original party had since been laid to rest in the case AG, Federation v. Atiku Abubakar (2007). 
6. Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution grants absolute immunity to the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor from being proscuted against in any civil or criminal case and the only exception to this immunity is Section 308(2), which permits sueing them only in the official capacity or as a norminal party. 

From the above points so far raised, it is obvious the verdict was based on what is referred to as "delege ferenda" (the law as we want it to be) and not "lex Lata"( the law as it is). It is laden with sentiment that even a layman cannot deny. 

"I want to encourage His Excellency, Governor Dave Umahi to be focused and allow the law take it's course. All I know is that God has a way of advertising people. They have only succeeded in helping you to campaign," Indeed. Go to Ebonyi state you will know, we must try to encourage the best to do more, not to frustrate them by discouraging them..

From Angela Odey.