The Ebonyi State High Court has ordered Governor David Umahi and his Deputy, Kelechi Igwe not to vacate their offices.
This followed an ex parte motion by counsel for the duo, Roy Umahi brought pursuant to rule 3(3) of the High Court rules of Ebonyi state in suit no HAB/13/22, according to a Vanguard report.
In his ruling on February 28, 2022, Justice Henry Njoku of the Ebonyi State High Court ruled that Governor Umahi and his Deputy did not flout any law by defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The Court had dismissed the matter for lacking in merit and fined the plaintiff, Sunny Ogbuoji, who was the APC candidate and runner-up in the 2019 governorship election N500, 000.
On March 8, a Federal High Court in Abuja had declared as illegal Umahi’s claim to the governorship seat after he defected from the PDP to the APC.
The court also asked the PDP to nominate a replacement.
The presiding Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo further ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept new nominations for the two positions from the PDP and give them certificates of return required for them to be sworn in as Governor and Deputy.
However, Umahi has rejected the court’s decision arguing that the Ebonyi High Court ruling should take precedence.
To this effect, the duo approached the Ebonyi High Court, praying the court to declare that its judgement of the 28th February 2022 on their defection to APC remains valid as a judgement in rem and as such should have precedence over any other contrary judgement and should be binding on all parties, persons and authorities.
In his ruling, Justice Henry Njoku granted the prayers sought by the duo and adjourned the matter to March 16 for a hearing on the motion on notice.
He declared, “It is hereby ordered as follows, an interim order of this honourable court for seven days (subject to renewal) is hereby granted in view of the judgement in suit no. HAB/13/22 delivered on the 28th day of February 2022, being a judgement in rem and having precedence over any contrary judgement.
“The applicants hereto Engr David Nweze Umahi and Dr Eric Kelechi Igwe shall accordingly remain and not be removed from office as governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi state respectively.”
Meanwhile, the Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru and 14 other lawmakers sacked by the court for defecting to the APC from the PDP on Thursday said they were dissatisfied with the judgement.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of Federal High Court, Abuja, had on Tuesday in his ruling, declared vacant the seats of Speaker Nwifuru and 14 other lawmakers.
The Judge ordered INEC to conduct a bye-election to fill in the vacant seats, in the respective constituencies within 90 days.
But Nwifuru told Journalists alongside the other 14 lawmakers that they had filed an appeal and stay of execution, with respect to the judgement
Nwifuru, however, said they would obey the judgement.
“It is about two days ago we started hearing the rumour that a Federal High Court in Abuja declared our seats vacant on the ground that we defected from PDP to APC.
“I know the position of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but I am not in a position to know how the judiciary interprets the law. I am not against that.
“We have filed an appeal and a stay of execution. Since the matter is in the court of law, there is no need to say anything about it. Our position is that the law will take its position. We are begging our constituents to remain law-abiding”, he said.