By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja; Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki and Robert Egbe
Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi has apologised to Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja for attacking him, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) confirmed yesterday
The judge on Tuesday sacked the governor and his deputy Eric Igwe for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justice Ekwo also ordered 16 lawmakers in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, who defected from the PDP to the APC, to vacate their seats.
He held that their votes cannot be transferred from one party to another.
Faulting the judgment, Umahi accused the judge of being a “hatchet man” and claimed the judgment was “purchased”.
The NBA had slammed the governor for his outburst, demanding an apology from him.
NBA President Olumide Akpata, in a statement yesterday, said Umahi has apologised.
Akpata said: “H.E. Engr. Umahi made extensive efforts to reach me and in the course of our conversation, I reiterated that the NBA has no interest in the case other than to ensure that the sanctity of the judicial system is protected and the rule of law respected.
“In line with our demands, H.E. Engr. Umahi addressed a cross-section of Ebonyi State citizens, where he unreservedly apologised for his comments, clarified his intentions and very importantly too, called for calm from his supporters while urging them to refrain from denigrating the Judiciary.
“I will immediately transmit this apology to His Lordship, Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo and My Lord the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, who is the head of the Judiciary in Nigeria, and urge them to also accept same.
“I must restate for the sake of emphasis that there is a well-established procedure for challenging unfavourable decisions of courts of competent jurisdiction and the NBA under my administration will continue to fulfil its mandate by rising to the defence of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the sanctity of court orders.
“Now that the right thing has been done and the appeal process has been activated, we shall resume our backseat and allow the process take its course.
“As far as the NBA is concerned, this brings an end to this unfortunate episode but we hope that important lessons have been learnt.”
Umahi gets counter-order
Umahi, Igwe and 16 members of the House of Assembly have asked the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order staying the execution of its judgments sacking them.
In a motion on notice filed for them by their lawyer, Chukwuma Machukwu Ume (SAN), they also want the court to stay the execution of the orders made by Justice Inyang Ekwo.
They hinged their requests on the grounds that filed two notices of appeal on March 9.
Umahi and others added that the notices of appeal have been duly served on all the parties and the court.
Also yesterday, the governor and his deputy secured an interim order from the High Court of Ebonyi State asking them not to vacate their offices.
This followed an ex-parte motion by their lawyer, Roy Umahi, brought pursuant to Rule 3(3) of the High Court Rules of Ebonyi State in suit no HAB/13/22.
The court had on February 28 ruled that Umahi and his deputy did not flout any law by defecting to the APC.
Umahi and Igwe approached the court yesterday, praying it to declare that its verdict of February 28 remained valid as a judgement in rem.
They argued that the judgment had precedence over any other contrary judgment and is binding on all parties, persons and authorities.
Ruling, Justice Njoku granted the prayers and adjourned the matter to March 16 for 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 judgment in rem and having precedence over any contrary judgment.
“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.”
The Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru and 14 other sacked lawmakers said they have filed an appeal and stay of execution of Justice Ekwo’s judgment.