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Abia State Crisis: Ikpeazu Is No Longer Abia Governor By Law, Says SAN

Unic Press UK: The controversy that has engulfed Abia State over the Certificate of Return, which was issued to Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah shows no signs of denouement.

While Okezie Ikpeazu still claims to be the Governor, Uchechukwu Ogah is insisting that he should be sworn in as the Governor.

Nigeria’s top lawyers’ are, as usual, strikingly divided on the issue of who should be occupying the Governor’s seat / position at this moment after Judge Okon Abang of an Abuja Federal High Court ruled on Monday, the 27th June as follows:

“It is hereby ordered that INEC, the third defendant should immediately issue certificate of return to Dr Samson Ogah as governor of Abia state in the election held in 2015 and restore to him all the entitlements as the elected governor of Abia.

“Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is hereby ordered to vacate office as governor of Abia immediately relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in INEC vs Obi”

Judge Abang held that the tax clearance certificate and income tax receipts submitted by Ikpeazu were unknown to the law and made him ineligible to contest the poll. And that the 2011 tax clearance certificate and income tax receipt submitted to INEC by Ikpeazu prior to the 2014 PDP primaries contained false information.

Lawyers’ reaction

Olisa Agbakoba, SAN: “The court has removed him as governor but the problem is that there’s a transition period. But the court has removed him as governor and there’s a new governor-elect who is yet to be sworn-in, and that is why I think there’s a major political vacuum. Clearly, the Ikpeazu is no longer the governor by Law.

“I don’t know the grounds which the other order from Abia State was obtained by one of the parties. But I do know that a judgment was given and a certificate of return was issued by INEC in Abuja. If they want to stay that order they have to go to the very court that passed the judgment.

“It is procedurally wrong to want to arrest that judgment using another court of coordinate jurisdiction. The order of the Federal High Court in Abuja should be obeyed.

“A Notice of Appeal is clearly not a Stay and INEC has broken no Law in issuing Certificate of Return to Ogah. But they should have relied on the prudential principle by cautioning themselves, giving the fact that they have received a Notice of Appeal, which in itself, does not constitute a stay of execution of the order of the court. However INEC has broken no law by issuing the certificate of return to Ogah.”

Inibehe Effiong: “… it is submitted that since there is at present no evidence that Ikpeazu had file a motion for stay of execution of the judgment along with his Notice of Appeal on or before Wednesday the 29th day of June, 2016 and serve same on INEC, the issuance of a certificate of return to Ogah on Thursday the 30th of June, 2016 cannot be legally faulted. Strictly, INEC acted within the law. Neither the Notice of Appeal (without a corresponding motion for stay) nor the injunction by the High Court of Abia State can be invoked to puncture INEC’s action.

“Without prejudice to the above submission, I need to observe that INEC may have acted mala fides (in bad faith) by waiting for three days to elapse before complying with the order of the court. While it is true that Section 75 of the Electoral Act gives the Commission 7 days to issue a Certificate of Return, that leverage cannot avail it in the instant case because the tenor of the judgment demanded immediacy. The order was made on the 27th of June, the issuance of the certificate of return on the 30th of June was belated; not immediately as ordered.

“Instead of dissipating resources on trivialities such as media propaganda; sponsorship of protests and unjustifiable declaration of public hollidays, Ikpeazu is advised to immediately file a motion for stay of execution of the judgment and serve same on INEC and Ogah. If that was or has been done, let it be published publicly for the world to see.

“Where this is done, INEC should cancel and withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ogah pending the determination of Ikpeazu’s appeal. In the absence of an application for stay of execution, there is absolutely nothing in law preventing the issuance of the certificate of return and the swearing-in of Ogah as the governor of Abia State pending the outcome of appeal(s) in the case.

“Though Ogah has been declared the duly elected governor of Abia State, Section 185 (1) of the Constitution is explicit that a person duly elected as governor shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and has subscribed to the Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. The decisions by the Chief Judge and the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of Abia State to abdicate their responsibilities in this regard amounts to an unconstitutional dereliction of duty in the absence of an application for stay of execution.”

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa: “With all due respect to the court, this judgment is wrong, both in law and morality. Straightaway it should not be difficult to know that the disqualification for candidates seeking the office of governor of a state are as stipulated under section 182 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as follows:

  • Dual Citizenship;
  • Two previous terms in office;
  • A person adjudged to be a lunatic or of unsound mind;
  • Conviction by court or tribunal for death or an offence involving dishonesty or fraud;
  • Conviction within ten years of contest for dishonesty or contravention of the Code of Conduct;
  • Failure to retire from public service;
  • Membership of a secret society;
  • Indictment for embezzlement or fraud; or
  • Has presented a forged certificate to INEC.

“In respect of section 182 (1) (i) relating to forged certificate, it must be that the alleged forgery must have been authenticated by the relevant hand writing analysis experts of the Nigeria Police Force and must be shown to have been masterminded by the governor himself.

“Furthermore, this is a case that has been fought and won, even up to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. So if one may ask, where was Mr. Ogah, in all of the time that the governorship election of Abia State was in the tribunal, in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court? Was it today that he got to know of the forged certificate? How will a High Court turn around to annul a mandate already confirmed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the latter being the highest court of the land?

“The judge in this case must be leveraging on the Supreme Court decision in Amaechi’s case, whereby Celestine Omehia was asked to surrender his mandate to Rotimi Amaechi, as governor of Rivers State. The difference in the two cases is that Amaechi won the PDP governorship primary fair and square, unlike in this case, where Ogar came second, behind Ikpeazu. So Ogar was not the choice of the party and he was not the choice of the people of Abia State and so he cannot be the choice of the court, against the wish of Abia people.”

 

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