Justice Inyang Ekwo on Tuesday had ruled that Umahi and his deputy, Eric Kelechi Igwe, must stop parading themselves as governor and deputy governor respectively after they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But Governor Umahi had slammed Justice Ekwo, calling him a hatchet man, adding that the court did not have the power to sack him.
“We have heard the rumours before now that he was determined to give judgment against all known laws and the constitution. First to embarrass the APC, two to embarrass the federal government.
“For me, I do not feel worried. I feel so sorry for the judiciary. The executive may have problems, the legislature may have problems too, but the moment justice could be purchased then we are in trouble in this country.
“Then the ruling this afternoon shows that this country is in trouble. And let me tell you that this same judge has over ten cases against the Ebonyi State Government with him. And you can imagine what he is going to rule. We have petitioned him to NJC and we will follow it up at all costs to ensure that this man is brought to justice.
“I want you to disregard the judgement. It is null and void. There is a subsisting judgment in Zamfara State and there is also a judgement in Ebonyi State. We have chosen the one to obey. We will not obey his ruling. We will obey the ruling of a competent court of equal level that says you cannot sue a governor.
“The section of the constitution is very clear. No criminal or civil proceedings are to be brought before a sitting governor. This is not a preelection matter; this is not a tribunal matter, and so he has murdered justice in this country and he will be remembered by his generation for this jungle justice which has no leg to stand.
“I am still the governor of Ebonyi State and he has no powers to remove me. But let me say to the nation: There is a need to look at the integrity of the judiciary because of the judiciary begins to rule on constitutional matters that are well laid down, then the citizens of this country may decide not to obey the jungle justice,” he said.
However, the NBA, in a statement signed by its President, Olumide Akpata, described Umahi’s statements as executive rascality taken too far, demanding that he tenders an apology to Ekwo.
“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 this 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,” the statement read.
“Indeed, the leadership of the NBA has been inundated with calls from a cross-section of well-meaning Nigerians who are understandably outraged by the utterances of Engr. Dave Umahi and who have rightly demanded that appropriate action be taken to protect the sanctity of 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 wake of the Judgment, one would have expected Engr. Umahi to sue for calm from his supporters and to assure them that all legal and constitutional avenues would be explored to challenge the judgment.
“For H.E. Engr. Umahi to instead resort to attacking and denigrating the high office of a Judge in this unprecedented manner is disgraceful, undemocratic and completely unacceptable. As Kayode Eso, JSC of blessed memory famously noted, “[t]he essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear.” We view Engr. Umahi’s reaction to this Judgment as being consistent with the current penchant, on the part of those in the executive arm of government, for intimidating the Judiciary whilst taking advantage of the historical reluctance of that arm of government to rise to its own defence.
“In 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 Judgment of the Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court.
“It is also our demand that this apology and retraction be given as much media coverage as the Press Conference where the unfortunate comments were made,” he signed off.