The umbrella body of Nigerian lawyers, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has demanded an apology over the comments made by the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, on Tuesday, where he described his removal from office by Justice Inyang Ekwo as “a hatchet” man’s job.
The NBA also described Umahi’s reaction as a national embarrassment.
In the statement signed by the NBA president, Olumide Akpata on Wednesday, he stated that Umahi’s reaction to an unfavourable court judgment by Ekwo was “totally unacceptable.”
9News Nigeria reported that Ekwo had on Tuesday delivered judgment in a case filed against Umahi, his deputy, Independent National Electoral Commission and the All Progressive Congress, by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP had contended that Umahi’s defection from its party to (APC) in December 2020, having won the 2015 and 2019 elections under its platform was illegal and unconstitutional.
Ekwo had agreed with the plaintiff and ordered Umahi to vacate office immediately sparking a swift response from the governor who vowed to report him to the National Judicial Council.
Part of his claims was that Ekwo had about 10 cases against Ebonyi in his file but he did not explain to the general public that cases are assigned to Federal High Court judges solely by the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho.
But Akpata said that the wise thing Umahi should have done is to appeal the judgment and not speak harshly about a sitting judge.
He strongly advised Umahi to publicly apologize to Nigerians urgently so as to save his image.
Part of the NBA statement reads:
“Following the Judgment, Engr. 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.”