*Says: ‘Impunity of the highest order’
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has berated Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State over his outburst on a judgement by Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja which removed him from office.
In his reaction to the judgement, the governor has said he will not obey it, saying it is null, void and of no effect.
Umahi said: “There is nothing to worry at all. In the first place, there is no constitutional provision for any hatchet man to remove a governor. There are three ways whereby a governor can vacate his seat; either by death, resignation or impeachment by the House of Assembly. There is no any other constitutional provision that empowers a hatchet man to turn the constitution and the law upside down.
“I have listened to the judgment of Ekwo and it is very obvious that he was on a mission, he was making all effort to upturn the rulings of the Supreme Court and Appeal Court on the issues like this. We have heard the rumours before now that he was determined to give judgment against all known laws and the constitution. First to embarrass APC, two to embarrass the Federal Government”.
However, reacting to Umahi’s outburst, the NBA, in a statement signed by its President, Olumide Akpata, said it is unfortunate and totally unacceptable for a governor to be casting aspersions on the personality of a judge.
The Association said rather than throwing caution to the wind, it had expected the governor to sue for calm from his supporters and assure them that all legal and constitutional avenues will would be explored to challenge the judgement.
NBA consequently demanded an unreserved apology from the governor as well as a retraction of the derogatory comments he made against the person and judgement of Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The statement reads: “The Nigerian Bar Association has noted with utter dismay, the unfortunate and totally unacceptable reaction of H. E. Engr. Dave Umahi to the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on 8th March, 2022, coram Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo which inter-alia ordered him and H. E. Mr. Eric Kelechi Igwe, to vacate the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State respectively, on grounds of their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
“Following the judgement, Engr. Umahi, in the course of a press conference, video evidence of which is currently making the rounds in both new and mainstream media, threw caution to the wind and deployed very uncomplimentary adjectives and intemperate language in characterizing both the judgement and Hon. Justice Ekwo, including but not limited to describing the judgement as ‘jungle justice’ and his lordship as a ‘hatchet man’. As if these were not enough, Engr. Umahi accused the court of ‘murdering justice’ and also arrogated to himself the judicial powers and magisterial authority to declare the judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction as null and void, while unashamedly declaring his intention to disregard the judgement in favour of another one. To put it plainly, this is impunity of the highest order and executive rascality taken too far.
“While the NBA has absolutely no interest in the outcome of the case in question and will continue to stay away from partisan politics, it is inconceivable that the Association that is charged with upholding the rule of law and defending the judiciary would sit idly by in the face of this unprovoked and totally unwarranted attack on the judiciary. It is for this reason that we condemn without equivocation Engr. Umahi’s unfortunate diatribe, which if it had emanated from an average litigant, would still have been regarded as shocking, but coming from one who occupies the exalted office of a state governor is nothing short of a national embarrassment.
“In the light of the foregoing, the NBA hereby demands an immediate apology from H. E. Engr. Dave Umahi and a retraction of the comments he made against the person and judgement of the Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court. It’s also our demand that this apology and retraction be given as much media coverage as the press conference where the unfortunate comments were made”.