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Defection: Court sacks 2 Reps members, 18 C-River lawmakers

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Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022
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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Ike Uchechukwu, Dirisu Yakubu

ABUJA—A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday,  sacked two federal lawmakers and 18 members of Cross River State House of Assembly, following their defection from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

Trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in his judgment, held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them to power, ought to vacate their seats.

Meanwhile, another Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday,  struck out an application by the embattled Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi and his Deputy, Eric Igwe,  to stay the execution of the judgment that sacked them from their respective offices.

This came as the PDP, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately and without any further delay, issue certificates of return to Iduma Igariwe and Fred Udogwu as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State, respectively.

Also, Cross River PDP chairman,  Venatius Ikem,  who hailed the judgment, said the party would meet to get replacement for the 20 national and state lawmakers sacked by the court.

But speaker of  Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr. Eteng Williams,  shortly after the judgment,  told Vanguard that he was not aware of any court decision sacking him or any other member of the House.

Those affected by yesterday’s court sack were two members of the House of Representatives, Michael Etaba (representing Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency) and Legor Idagbor (representing Obudu/Obaliku/Bekwara Federal Constituency).

The 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly sacked, include Eteng William,  Joseph Bassey, Okey Agbe, Okon Ephraim, Regina Anyogo, Mathew Olory, Expo Bassey,  Ogbor Udop,  Ekpe Okon,  Hillary Bisong, Francis Asuquo,  Elvert Ayambem, Davis Etta, Sunday Achunekan,  Cynthia Nkasi, Edward Ejang, Chris Nja-Mbu Ogar, and Maria Akwaji.

The court held that the defendants, having decamped from the political party that sponsored their election before the expiration of the period for which they were elected, “have by virtue of the provisions of section 68(1) (g) and section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) respectively, vacated their seats and are not entitled to continue to occupy the various seats or offices into which they were elected..

It issued an order, restraining the defendants from further parading themselves as House of Reps members or members of the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly.

More so, the court, granted an order of injunction restraining  INEC, Speaker of the House of Reps, as well as Clerks of both the National Assembly and the Cross River State House of Assembly, by themselves or by their servants, agents or privies, from according recognition to the sacked lawmakers, or in any manner, accept or relate with them as House of Reps members or members of the State Assembly.

It also made an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept from the PDP, the list of its candidates for the purpose of filling the vacancy created by the exit of the lawmakers.

Court strikes out Umahi, deputy’s motion for stay of execution

Justice Inyang Ekwo, yesterday, struck out the motion after lead counsel to the duo, Mr. Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, applied to withdraw it.

Ume,  said the decision to withdraw the application was based on the fact that his clients have duly entered an appeal, with all the records of proceedings, transmitted to the Court of Appeal, Abuja.

He also applied and withdrew a similar application he filed on behalf of 16 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly that were also sacked by the court over their defection from the PDP, to the APC, with governor Umahi and his deputy.

Issue certificates of return to Igariwe, Udogwu now, PDP charges INEC

PDP in a statement by spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, said: “In furtherance of the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, refusing to grant stay of execution to Governor David Umahi and his deputy, Kelechi Igwe over their removal from office by the court, said: “INEC, pursuant to the provision of Section 287(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that “the decisions of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and of all other courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and those other courts, respectively” is bound to issue Certificates of Return immediately to  Iduma Igariwe and Fred Udogwu as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State respectively.

“This is absolutely necessary to prevent the existence of vacuum in the government and governance of Ebonyi State as Umahi and Igwe can no longer exercise the functions of the office of governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State pursuant to the order of the Federal High Court, which removed them from office on March 8, 2022, and the subsequent order of the Federal High Court today (yesterday), which refused their application for Stay of Execution.

We’re already shopping for their replacement —C’River PDP

Cross River PDP, chairman, Venatius Ikem, who commended the judgment, said: “It is a very heartwarming judgment and we commend the judiciary for upholding the tenets of democracy .

“This is the kind of judgment that can sanitise the entire political process and we welcome it wholeheartedly.

“For us we have won the judgment and we shall follow the necessary judicial processes for them to vacate the seats and we shall also take steps to adequately replace them accordingly.

“For us, it’s to begin to prepare for replacement for those seats, we have to meet to take decision, it is imperative we replace all those who the court have vacated immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the Cross River state House of Assembly, Eteng Williams, who spoke to Vanguard  shortly after the judgment, said he was not aware of any judgment sacking him or any other member of the House.

 “As far I’m concerned and as far as I know, I am not aware of any court judgment sacking me or any member of the CRSHA, because we have not been served any order as we speak,” he said.

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