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Defection: Lawyers speak on calls for Umahi’s impeachment

A group asked lawmakers to commence impeachment proceedings after the Ebonyi governor defected to APC from the PDP.

• November 22, 2020
David Umahi
David Umahi

Heightened calls for the impeachment of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State have sparked reactions among prominent lawyers in the country.

An Ebonyi diaspora group, AESID, on Sunday asked the state lawmakers to commence impeachment proceedings against Mr. Umahi for defecting to the ruling APC from the PDP.

“In view of the foregoing breaches of the fundamental rights of citizens of our dear state, and the potentialities of same to plunge Ebonyi into a serious political crises, the AESID boldly urge Ebonyi lawmakers to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against the governor,” Daily Trust reported the group’s leader Paschal Oluchukwu to have said.

The association accused Governor Umahi of ‘breaching’ the constitution as well as judicial precedents by jilting the PDP without any known crisis within the party.

Peoples Gazette reported that Mr. Umahi, a former state chairman of the PDP in Ebonyi, who had previously served as deputy governor before his emergence as governor for two terms, announced his defection to the APC at a press conference in Abakaliki on November 17.

The governor cited the PDP’s failure to zone the Presidency to the Southeast for the entirety of its 16-year rule as his reason for dumping the party.

Weighing in on calls for Mr. Umahi’s impeachment, popular lawyer and social commentator, Liborous Oshoma told the Gazette Sunday evening that the governor has not breached any law.

“First and foremost the governor’s reasons for decamping are laughable,” Mr. Oshoma said. “Secondly, no court in the land held that a governor cannot decamp.”

He argued that the section of the constitution that permits elected officials to decamp from their parties — only in the event of internal leadership crisis — refers to the legislature and not the executive.

“It is morally wrong for a governor to take a mandate given to him on the platform of a political party to another party. But it is not constitutionally wrong, as the court has not been privileged to make a pronouncement on it,” Mr. Oshoma noted.

On his part, legal practitioner and rights activist Inibehe Effiong explains that Section 188 of the constitution empowers the House of Assembly to impeach a governor on grounds of gross misconduct.

“Whether Gov. Umahi’s defection qualifies for gross misconduct is a political question because Section 188 (11) defines gross misconduct as ‘a grave violation or breach of the provisions of the constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion in the House of Assembly.’ 

“If majority of members of Ebonyi assembly reach the decision that Mr. Umahi’s defection to the APC, having been elected on the platform of the PDP and received the mandate of the electorate through the machinery of the PDP amounts to gross misconduct, they can as well impeach him,” Mr. Effiong told the Gazette.

The Ebonyi governor’s defection is expected to usher in a fresh wave of political realignments in the Southeast, with the APC looking to lure more chief executives in the region to the party before the 2023 general elections.

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