By Innocent Anaba
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has called on Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State to immediately render an apology for his attack on Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, who sacked him from office for defecting from the party that brought him to power, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Justice Ekwo had in his judgment of Tuesday, also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct another election in Ebonyi State within 90 days, while Umahi, his deputy were also ordered to refund monies they have collected in office since their defection.
But Umahi had while reacting to the judgement, described the judge and judgement in unprintable words.
NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata, while reacting to Umahi’s outburst in a statement on Wednesday, said: “The NBA, has noted with utter dismay, the unfortunate and totally unacceptable reaction of Dave Umahi to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja delivered on March 8, 2022, Coram Justice Inyang Ekwo which inter-alia ordered him and Mr Eric Igwe to vacate the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively, of Ebonyi State on grounds of their defection from the Peoples’ Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
“Following the judgment, Engr. Umahi, in the course of a press conference -video evidence of which is currently making the rounds on both new and mainstream media – threw caution to the wind and deployed very
uncomplimentary adjectives and intemperate language in characterising both the judgment and Justice Ekwo, including but not limited to describing the judgment as “jungle justice” and His Lordship as “a hatchet man”.
“As if these were not enough, Engr. Umahi accused the court of “murdering justice” and also arrogated to himself the judicial powers and magisterial authority to declare the judgment of a court of competent
jurisdiction as null and void while unashamedly declaring his intention to
disregard the Judgment in favour of another. “To put it plainly, this is impunity of the highest order and executive rascality taken too far.
While the NBA has absolutely no interest in the outcome of the case in question and will continue to stay away from partisan politics, it is inconceivable that this association that is charged with upholding the rule of law and defending the judiciary would sit idly by in the face of this unprovoked and totally unwarranted attack on the judiciary.
” Indeed, the leadership of the NBA has been inundated with calls from a cross-section of well-meaning Nigerians who are understandably outraged by the utterances of Umahi and who have rightly demanded that appropriate action be taken to protect the sanctity of the judiciary. It is for this reason that we condemn without equivocation, Umahi’s unfortunate diatribe which, if it had emanated from an average litigant, would still have been regarded as shocking but coming from one who occupies the exalted office of a State Governor, is nothing short of a national embarrassment.
“In the wake of the judgment, one would have expected Umahi to sue for calm from his supporters and to assure them that all legal and constitutional avenues would be explored to challenge the judgment. For Umahi to instead resort to attacking and denigrating the high office of a judge in this unprecedented manner is disgraceful, undemocratic and completely unacceptable.
“As Kayode Eso, JSC of blessed memory famously noted, “[t]he essence of the
rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear.” We view Umahi’s reaction to this Judgment as being consistent with the current penchant, on the part of those in the executive arm of government, for intimidating the Judiciary whilst taking advantage of the historical reluctance of that arm of government to rise to its own defence.
“In light of the foregoing, the NBA hereby demands an immediate apology from Umahi and a retraction of the comments he made against the person and Judgment of the Justice Ekwo of the Federal High Court.
“It is also our demand that this apology and retraction be given as much media coverage as the press conference where the unfortunate comments were made,” he added.