By Paul Michael, Abuja
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) on Wednesday chided the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, over his comments on the court judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, sacking him for joining the All Progressives Congress (PDP).
Umahi had described his sack and that of his Deputy, Eric Kelechi Igwe, by Justice Ekwo as a “jungle justice” procured by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and delivered by “a hatchet man”. Adding that he remains the Governor of Ebonyi state as another Court of coordinate jurisdiction has earlier delivered a subsisting judgment dismissing the suit by the PDP
Responding in a statement by its President, Olumide Akpata, the NBA said the comment of Umahi was unfortunate and totally uncalled for. Adding that his utterance amounted to executive rascality, which the association condemned.
The statement reads, “The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has noted with utter dismay, the unfortunate and totally unacceptable reaction of His Excellency, Dave Umahi to the Judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja delivered on 8th March 2022, coram Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo which inter-alia ordered him and H.E. Mr. Eric Kelechi Igwe to vacate the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively, of Ebonyi State on grounds of their defection from the Peoples’ Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
“Following the Judgment, Umahi, in the course of a Press Conference – video evidence of which is currently making the rounds on both new and mainstream media – threw caution to the wind and deployed very uncomplimentary adjectives and intemperate language in characterising both the Judgment and Hon. Justice Ekwo, including but not limited to describing the Judgment as ‘jungle justice’ and His Lordship as ‘a hatchet man’.
“As if these were not enough, Engr. Umahi accused the Court of ‘murdering justice’ and also arrogated to himself the judicial powers and magisterial authority to declare the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction as null and void while unashamedly declaring his intention to disregard the Judgment in favour of another.
“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. 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, ‘the 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.”