It is almost certain that the same High Court in Abuja, which yesterday sacked two federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives from Cross River State, will in similar manner, deliver judgement in suit number ABJ/CS/975/2021 against Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade on Friday, March 25, 2022.
The two federal legislators include Mike Etaba and Legor Idagbo. The 18 lawmakers of the Cross River State House of Assembly, including the Speaker, Eteng Williams, his deputy Joseph Bassey, among others were also sacked.
The crux of the matter is the governor’s decision on May 20, 2021, to defect to the national ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the platform he won electoral victory in 2015 and 2019 as governor of the State.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Abuja Federal High Court, had in a judgement in suit no: ABJ/FHC/CS/976/21, held that the defendants had intentions to mislead the court. He said he found gaps and loopholes in their defence as they tried to twist events to suit their own narratives.
“I consider the attempts of the defendants to justify their defection, feeble in the circumstances of this case,” the court held.
Taiwo noted that the public voted for the lawmakers through the plaintiff (PDP) who sponsored them and they were not voted for as independent candidates but as members of the PDP.
“They had a vehicle which conveyed them and that vehicle belongs to the plaintiff. They cannot abandon the vehicle,” it held.
The judge illustrated that they committed an unpardonable offence against the people.
Justice Taiwo said politicians treat citizens that elected them into power as if they do not matter once they assume office.
To show the seriousness of the judgment, he added that “A day will come when elected officers must resign their post if they migrate to another party or seek the permission of the people before they decamp.”
It is based on this that tension is high over the belief that the learned judge, Taiwo Taiwo shall equally rule against Mr Ayade and Ivara Esu who were the prime motivators of the defection.
However, Chairman of APC in the State, Alphonsus Ogar Eba does not appear to be worried by the upcoming judgment against his governor.
While reacting to the judgment which ordered the 20 lawmakers to vacate their seats, he calmed his supporters and told journalists that it was not something they should be too agitated about.
In a statement released by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Erasmus Ekpang, Eba said that the appellate court will do justice to the matter as they will, of course, appeal it.
“The Federal High Court judgment that was given against our lawmakers is nothing to worry about.
“We trust that the appellate court will do justice as we file our appeal,” he said.
Also, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Christian Ita, in a statement, said their counsel, Mike Ozekhome has applied to the Federal High Court for stay of execution of Justice Taiwo’s judgement. Reading their lips, the APC will certainly apply for such favour from the court in case Friday’s judgment goes against them.
Nevertheless, aides to the Governor, civil and public servants in the governor’s office are envisaging the judgement might not go their way, and are expressing fears.
Some have said they may not go to work on the said Friday when the judgement would be delivered.
Pundits are already saying that the judiciary are only showing their muscles just for the records, so the public would see them as being alive.
Mr Effiwat Anselem, a community leader in Calabar spoke over a radio programme.
He expressed concern that the judiciary will only bark but will not be able to bite.
“The judgements from Ebonyi State to Cross River State will appear more like academic exercises by the judges. These governors have just one more year to hand over. Knowing the snail speed of our legal system and possibility of compromise, it is doubtful that the sacking of the legislators and possibly Governor Ayade can be efficiently effected,” he said.
A public affairs analyst, Ekeng Bassey cautioned that the judiciary should prove itself that they can bark, bite and chew, so that ordinary citizens can have hope in them.
Bassey said the defendants will look at the possibility of dragging the court processes up to the Supreme Court just so they can spend the remainder of their tenure in office.
Speaking about the enforcement of the judgment of yesterday and the upcoming one, chairman of the PDP in the State, Vena Ikem said that they will do all that is legally possible to see that the judgement is enforced to the letter.
He disclosed that, to show their determination to reclaim the votes the people willingly gave to their party, they have already begun to shop for the replacements of the 20 lawmakers, as well as replacements for Ayade and his deputy.
Ikem said Taiwo’s judgement is a victory for all that is good, and very heartwarming.
He said, “We will enforce the judgment in accordance with extant due processes. It’s not rocket science to enforce a judgment of the courts. That’s the least of our concerns right now.”
Ikem said Ayade had used force and privileged position to commandeer their party Secretariat in Calabar, and illegally transferred their votes to another party.
“We have cases in courts. We are going to use legal means to retrieve them all. We are determined. Nothing will stop us from reclaiming our mandate. We are fighters,” he vowed.