By Ononye VC
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has revealed its next move while reacting to the apology tendered by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, after backlash followed his uncomplimentary remarks about Justice Inyang Ekwo who had ordered his removal in a court judgment on Tuesday.
Umahi had called Ekwo’s verdict as a “hatchet” man’s job, provoking the association to describe his comments about the judge as a national embarrassment and unacceptable while calling for a public apology by the governor.
Via his Facebook page, NBA President, Olumide Akpata confirmed that Umahi apologized to the judge in line with the association’s demands which included an apology done through a press conference.
He revealed that the NBA will forward same apology to Ekwo and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko and convince them to accept it.
“Following that Statement, 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 & 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,” Akpata stated.
The NBA president emphasized that the procedure for challenging unfavourable decisions of courts is to appeal it.
“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,” he stated.
In a suit instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, before Justice Inyang Ekwo, it had contended that Umahi should vacate his office for defecting from its party to the All Progressive Congress in December 2020, having secured electoral victory in 2015 and 2019 elections under its platform.
PDP, which had sued Umahi, his deputy, the Independent National Electoral Commission and APC, maintained that the governor’s action was illegal and unconstitutional.
Ekwo agreed and held the view that “votes in any election in Nigeria are to political parties, and not candidates.”
Apparently aware of the authority of a court verdict, Umahi and his deputy, Eric Kelechi Igwe quickly filed court processes at the Court of Appeal, Abuja on March 9, Wednesday.
They argued that the lower court erred in law and misdirected its decision, because “there is no provision in the 1999 constitution (as amended) that provides for the removal of a sitting governor and his deputy for reason of defection.”
The duo also instituted a suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja division, urging it to order stay execution of Justice Ekwo’s orders.
Decisions are yet to be made on both applications, as of the time of this report.