The Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria has upheld the defection of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State Southern Nigeria and his Deputy, Mr. Esu Ivara from the opposition party the People’s Democratic Party PDP to the ruling All Progressive Congress APC.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo in a judgement dismissed the suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seeking to declare the seat of the Governor and his Deputy vacant, following their defection.
The Judge held that governors and their deputies can only be removed from office in line with sections 180, 188 and 189 of the Constitution which stipulates that elective office holders can only be removed from office on account of death, resignation or impeachment.
Justice Taiwo said that since defection is not one of the Constitutional provisions, no court has power to insert such into the Supreme Law.
It held that defection to another political party was not stated as one of the grounds for the removal of either a governor or his deputy.
“The 3rd and 4th Defendants cannot be removed except by Constitutional provision.
“This court has no power to declare vacant the seat of the 3rd and 4th Defendants”, the judge held.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had sued Governor Ayade and 20 state legislators over their defection from the opposition party PDP to the rulling All Progressives Congress (APC) in May 2021.
On March 21, 2022, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, sacked the Cross River state House of Assembly Speaker and 17 Members, alongside two members of the House of Representatives for defecting to the APC, when “there (were) no justifiable reasons” for their action.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo departed from his earlier judgment and held on to the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered on April 1 to the effect that defection is not an offence under the Nigerian Constitution.
Counsel to the defendants Mr. Mike Ozekhome SAN said, “the judgment is right because it is a candidate that contest and wins elections not a political party which is a vehicle that people ride to ganner votes for the candidates.”
He urged those who want the law amended to approach the National Assembly on the ongoing constitution amendments.
Meanwhile, counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr Emmanuel Okala could not be seen to react to the judgement.