On Tuesday, March 8, a Federal High Court in Abuja gave a shocking judgement as it sacked Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state and his deputy, Eric Igwe, over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, also asked the lawmakers in the state House of Assembly, including the Speaker, who followed Umahi to the APC to vacate their seats.
“The votes in any election in Nigeria are to political parties, and not candidates,” the judge held. ustice Ekwo also ruled that all salaries and allowances collected by the defendants from the period of defection to the present should be forfeited to the government coffers. If this judgement stands, at least two other Nigerian governors may suffer the same fate.
Governor Ben Ayade Of Cross River State
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state and his deputy, Ivara Esu, also left the PDP for the APC in May 2021. Just like the situation in Ebonyi, the PDP had instituted a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja, praying the court to, among others, sack Ayade and his deputy for defecting to the APC.
In the suit filed by a team of lawyers led by Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), the PDP argued that the mandate was given by the Cross River electorate to the party on whose platform Ayade contested, adding that the mandate cannot be transferred to the APC or any other political party.
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State
In June 2021, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state defected from the PDP to the APC. Some aggrieved members of the PDP subsequently headed to the court, asking for Matawalle’s sack over his defection. However, a Federal High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara State, in February, struck out the suit. Delivering a ruling on Monday, February 7, the presiding judge, Aminu Aliyu, held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
He also ruled that the constitution of the PDP and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria do not, in any way, prohibit any person from joining any association or political party. Aliyu said it was only an election tribunal or state house of assembly that could remove a governor from office. Nevertheless, there is another pending suit against Governor Matawalle before the Supreme Court. The suit filed solely by the PDP is supported by a 26-point affidavit deposed by the National Secretary of the party, Senator Umar Tsuari.
Lawmakers Who May Be Affected
At the Edo State House of Assembly, two lawmakers, Yekini Idaiye (Akoko-Edo 1) and Nosayaba Okunbor ( Orhionmwon East), dumped the PDP for the APC in February 2021.
They may lose their seats if the PDP eventually drags them to court. In the National Assembly, a number of lawmakers (at the Senate and House of Reps) equally stand the risk of being removed from office by court over defection.
In the Senate, at least six senators have dumped the PDP for the APC. They are:
(1)Senator Stella Oduah (Anambra North)
(2)Elisha Abbo (Adamawa North)
(3)Peter Nwabaoshi (Delta North)
(4)Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North)
(5)Lawali Anka (Zamfara West)
(5)Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba Central)
At the House of Reps, some of the lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the APC are:
(1)Jonathan Gaza (Nasarawa state)
(2)Ephreaim Nwuzi (Etche/Omuma federal constituency, Rivers state)
(3)David Abel (Gashaka/Kurmi/Sardauna federal constituency, Taraba state)
(4)Idagbo Ochiglegoor (Obanliku/Obudu/Bekwarra federal constituency, Cross River state)
(5)Michael Etaba (Obubra/Etung federal constituency, Cross River state)
(6)Reps Bello Hassan Shinkafi (Zamfara state)
(7)Ahmed Bakura (Zamfara state)
(8)Ahmed Shehu (Zamfara state)
(9)Suleiman Gumi (Zamfara state)
Meanwhile, in an usual move, Yahaya Fatuba, a member of the House of Representatives, also recently dumped the APC for the PDP. Fatuba who is from Gombe State revealed his decision in a letter read by the speaker of the of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila at the plenary. The letter read on the floor of the House by the Speaker quoted the lawmaker as saying that the crisis in the party necessitated his exit.