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Ikpeazu & Ogar: Confusion in Abia State

(L to R) Uchechukwu Ogah and Okezie Ikpeazu
(L to R) Uchechukwu Ogah and Okezie Ikpeazu

Please read below the political drama going on in Abia State,

Mr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah, who was declared governor-elect of Abia State on Monday by a Dederal High Court, Abuja, arrived Umuahia, the state capital yesterday in the evening saying he hoped to be sworn in today. Mr Ogah, who landed at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport from Abuja, after receiving certificate of return issued to him by INEC assured of “fresh air” for the people of the state.

He arrived at the airport aboard a chartered aircraft N664D with his wife and some associates, saying that he would either be sworn in yesterday or today.
Speaking to newsmen, Ogah described his triumph as “a new dawn because fresh air has entered into Abia State.”

The national chairman of the PDP, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff said he would be willing to work with either Ikpeazu or Ogah provided the rule of law was followed. However, an Abia State High Court has directed the state chief judge not to swear-in Ogah.

Also, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, whose April election was quashed by the court, said he had already appealed the judgement and advised Ogah not to show up for any swearing in. But Sampson Ogah, has insisted on being sworn in as governor, arguing that the injunction obtained by Mr. Ikpeazu was invalid coming from a subordinate court to the Federal High Court that ordered his swearing in.

Mr. Ogah said through his Media Adviser, Monday Ubani, that only an Appeal Court could grant such injunction.
He also argued that the appeal filed by the governor could not be considered a stay of action over the judgment of Justice Okon Abang.

Mr. Ogah urged the chief judge and all concerned to respect the ruling and allow him to immediately take over the reins of leadership so as to move the state forward.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday issued Certificate of Return saying it was doing so in compliance with the ruling of the Federal High Court.

Ogah received his certificate from the INEC Commissioner in charge of the South-East, Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku, on behalf of the commission in Abuja.
Amb. Nwuruku said INEC decided to present the Certificate of Return to Ogah as directed by the court.

It would be recalled that a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday removed Ikpeazu, on the grounds that he included false information in his tax clearance certificate.

The court directed that Ikpeazu’s election certificate be withdrawn and in his place, Ogah, who was the first runner-up in the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), should replace him.

In his ruling, Justice Okon Abang held that Ikpeazu was not qualified to contest the primary election of the PDP, which held on December 8, 2014, because he made false declaration in his INEC Form CF001 containing information of his tax certificate and personal income tax payments (P.A.Y.E.).

A statement issued yesterday by Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, said Ogah received his certificate based on the receipt of a certified true copy of the judgment signed by the FCT High Court Registrar, Mr. Olawale M. Oladoyin, dated 27th June 2016 and served on INEC.

According to him, Justice Abang specifically ordered INEC, which was the 3rd Defendant in the case “to issue Certificate of Return to the Plaintiff, Dr Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah as Governor of Abia State, for the election held on 11th April, 2015 and restore all entitlements to him as the elected Governor of Abia State. Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is hereby ordered to vacate office as Governor of Abia State.”

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Ikpeazu secures court Injunction, says ‘I remain governor’
However, embattled governor Ikpeazu yesterday obtained an ex-parte order at the Abia State High Court sitting in Osisioma Ngwa restraining the state chief judge or any judicial officer from swearing in Dr Ogah as governor of the state.
The injunction directed that the swearing in should not hold pending the determination of the motion on notice.

“Our laws are clear on this matter. No one may be issued with a Certificate of Return, let alone be sworn in as governor when there is a subsisting appeal and application for stay. I want to appeal to Abians to remain calm and law abiding in the face of this provocation,” he said.

Our correspondent reports that there was mixed reactions in major towns and cities in Abia State, as some supporters of the PDP were happy that wherever the pendulum swings, the party will still be in power.
Some party faithfuls believed that INEC had erred by giving a Certificate of Return to Ogah while others said Ikpeazu was paying a price for evading tax.

Ikpeazu, who was earlier in the morning set to attend the maiden edition of Eminent Person Lecture Series in Abia State University, shelved the plan while those already at the venue departed when the news reached them.
Lawyers react

A legal practitioner, Godwin Obla says the Certificate of Return issued to Ogah “is an ordinary piece of paper since the chief Judge of Abia state has not administered the Oath of office on him.”

Obla said that until Ikpeazu exhausted his 21 days right of appeal, the certificate of return issued to Ogah is a piece of paper.
“If Ikeazie succeeds at the Court of Appeal, does it mean that INEC will now issue another certificate of return?” Obla asked.
He wondered why INEC was in a hurry, adding that the electoral empire ought to have acted responsibly.

Another lawyer, Abubakar Magaji SAN, in his reaction said Justice Abang’s decision was not a final judgment, adding that the sitting governor still has a right of appeal.
Magaji said that INEC’s action can only be right if the sitting Governor had not filed an appeal.

Similarly, Sebastine Hon, SAN said “if after INEC became aware of the notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution, but went ahead to issue a Certificate of Return to Mr. Ogah, then its action is null and void.

“The jurisdiction of the court of Appeal to deal one way or the other with the motion for stay should not be frustrated under any guise. The President and the Inspector –General of Police should quickly intervene to stop graduation to constitutional anarchy in Abia State,” he said.
“This could create confusion in the state. I don’t know why INEC issued the certificate of return. I understand there is an appeal at the Appeal Court and that should serve as a stay.

“I don’t know the legal authority INEC relied upon, we cannot have two governors in a state,” said Abeny Mohammed, SAN).
Another lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, said “A court that is aware that a court of coordinate jurisdiction has given an order on a matter, ought not to proceed to give another order.

However, an activist, Barrister Abubakar Sanni, said that issuing the Certificate of Return to Ogah was in order. According to him, “It is high time people in government started obeying Court orders.

Daily Trust

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