By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to dismiss the suit the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, filed seeking to declare the seat of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and his Deputy, Ivara Esu, vacant, following their defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
INEC through its lawyer, Mr. Anthony Onyeri, told the court that the issue of defection, which PDP raised against Ayade and Esu, had already been decided by the Court of Appeal in Enugu in a similar case that involved Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State.
It argued that by the principle of stare decisis (judicial precedence), the high court ought to abide by the decision of the appellate court to the effect that neither a governor nor his deputy could be sacked from office for defecting to another political party.
INEC’s lawyer noted that the Supreme Court had after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar decamped from the PDP to the defunct Action Congress, AC, ruled that the issue of defection of a President or a VP, was not captured in the constitution.INEC took the position after Justice Taiwo Taiwo, trial judge in the PDP’s suit against Ayade, asked all the parties to address the court on the import of the recent judgement of the Court of Appeal in Enugu, on the issue of Umahi’s defection to the APC.
The court equally directed the parties to furnish it with the Certified True Copy, CTC, of the judgement.But counsel to the PDP, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, maintained that the case and reliefs that were presented before the appellate court, were fundamentally different from the instant case against Ayade. Ukala argued that the appellate court, in its judgement, did not interpret section 1(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as it was not part of what was posed before it for determination.
He noted that whereas in the instant case, the court, was invited to interpret section 180(1c) and (1d) of the Constitution, in the Ebonyi State matter, the court only interpreted sections 221, 177, 179, 285(13) of the Constitution.
On their part, both counsel to the APC, Mr. S. Aruwa, SAN, and that of Ayade and his deputy, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, urged the court to be bound by decisions of both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on the issue of defection.
Ozekhome argued that the case decided by the appellate court was the same with the instant case.Meanwhile, after he had listened to all the parties, Justice Taiwo deferred his scheduled judgement on PDP’s case against Ayade and his deputy, till today.
The PDP is in its suit, praying the court to sack both Ayade and his deputy, contending that the duo, having abandoned the political party that sponsored their re-election, ought to vacate their respective offices.
The court had earlier sacked two members of the House of Representatives and 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly that decamped into APC with Ayade and his deputy.