Court upholds Ayade’s defection to APC, dismisses suit to declare seat vacant



Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday dismissed a suit seeking to declare vacant the seat of Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo cited the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Enugu that defection is not a ground for removal from office.

The Justice noted that the removal of a sitting governor and his deputy can only be done in line with constitutional provisions.


He added that under such provisions, the judiciary lacks the powers to remove an elected officer.

The Justice, however, agreed that defection from a winning party to a losing one is immoral and improper.

Ayade defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in May 2021 from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), citing the allure of working with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The PDP subsequently filed a suit against Ayade and his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, arguing that they had abandoned the political party that sponsored their re-election.

On March 21, 2022, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, sacked the Cross River state House of Assembly Speaker and 17 Members, alongside two members of the House of Representatives for defecting to the APC, when “there (were) no justifiable reasons” for their action.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo departed from his earlier judgment and held on to the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered on April 1 to the effect that defection is not an offence under the Nigerian Constitution.

Counsel to the defendants Mr. Mike Ozekhome SAN said, “the judgment is right because it is a candidate that contest and wins elections not a political party which is a vehicle that people ride to ganner votes for the candidates.”

He urged those who want the law amended to approach the National Assembly on the ongoing constitution amendments.

Meanwhile, counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr Emmanuel Okala could not be seen to react to the judgement.

Similar suits have been filed against Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, another PDP Governor who defected to the APC.

While a High Court has ruled in favour of the PDP in the Umahi case, other judgments have favoured the incumbents.

The High Court ruling in favour of the PDP is currently under appeal.