Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has hailed the decision of the Federal High Court of March 8 sacking Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and his deputy as sound and commendable.
Falana spoke from Accra, Ghana when he was hosted by the Political Platform of the Channels TV Tuesday evening, a discussion that was monitored by the ACE Magazine.
He faulted his fellow lawyers who said the judgment was at variance with the law on how a governor should be removed from office.
He said such views are laughable and wondered what was wrong with the judgment.
The human rights lawyer praised the judgment as a landmark and said it was the first time anybody approached the court for an interpretation of the mandate of an executive and the transferability to another party, therefore, the decision must be like none other before it.
He reasoned that all the people making reference to the matter of Atiku Abubakar defecting to another party as vice president should know that the issue is not the same with what is on ground with Umahi.
“In the case of Umahi, it is the holder of the mandate that decamped and that means the government entirely moved to another political party. In Atiku’s case, the vice president left, but the ultimate holder of the mandate, the president did not transfer the mandate of the party that elected him to another. It was still the government of PDP led by President Olusegun Obasanjo. This is unlike Umahi who shipped totally out of the party that gave him the mandate.”
Asked about the constitutional rights of the governor of Ebonyi State to freedom of association, Falana said such rights do not also endow Umahi with the rights to take away the rights of over 320,000 people of the state that voted for a party. He also agrees that the law makes it clear that the mandate an elected public officer holds belongs to the political party platform on which such candidate vied for election.
He also disagreed with people saying that the judgment breached the constitutional provisions on how to remove a governor and asked “did the constitution ever envisage that a governor would ever transfer the mandate that brought him to office to another party. No constitution anywhere in the world captured everything and therefore there must be interpretations and expansion. When Peter Obi questioned his mandate and the tenure, was it in the constitution? It was not there, but the court found it proper to interpret and that became rightly the law that a governor should be in office for four years from the day such is sworn into office and not counted from the day the person who was wrongly declared winner of election came to power.”
He said what Governor Umahi should have done honourably was to resign when he left the mandate of the party that voted him into power rather than contesting the matter. “You cannot get a mandate from the people who voted a party and transfer it to another whenever you wish without legal consequences. That is not just.
It is our wish that the Supreme Court would uphold this sound judgment and bring an end to the annoying and irresponsible political prostitution in Nigeria that is not helping the growth of our democracy.