Awards N500, 000 as damages against the plaintiff

By Peter Okutu

The State High Court sitting in Abakaliki, yesterday, struck out the suit challenging the defection of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state.

The Plaintiffs were Senator Sonni Ogbuoji and the APC Governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, his Deputy, Architect Mbam Ogodo and the APC as a party.

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Delivering his judgment, the Presiding Judge, His Lordship, Hon Justice Henry Njoku, stated that the plaintiff came with originating  summons seeking the Court to hold that the defendant, Governor of Ebonyi State, having defected to APC from the PDP through which he was elected, ought to vacate the office of the Governor upon defection.

He added that the plaintiff having come second in the 2019 election, demanded to be sworn in accordingly.

“Though the plaintiff did not come through relevant rules of Court to  institute their originating summons, the Court still went ahead in the interest of substantive justice to hear the matter of the propriety of the defection of Governor Umahi from PDP to APC

“The plaintiff sought to determine whether Governor Umahi, having defected to APC can still continue to be Governor, having regards to the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act as relied upon by the plaintiff.

“And that having come second in the Governorship election ought to be sworn in.”

The defendant, Umahi, in his argument canvassed that the plaintiff was relying on the pre-election/election qualification issues, arguing that there is no provision in the constitution that provides for defection as one of the grounds for the vacation or removal of a person as Governor or as Deputy Governor.

He alluded to judicial authorities of Appellant Courts that have settled the matter.

According to the presiding Judge, “considering the submissions of both parties, the Court held that having regard to section 188 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the defendant (Governor Umahi) has not offended any provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act in his defection to APC.”

The Court further held that having regard to section 308 of the Constitution, it is even wrong to institute criminal or civil proceedings against the office of the Governor.

The Court therefore dismissed in its entirety, the suit filed by the plaintiff for lacking in merit and awarded Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000.00) as damages against the plaintiff. 

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