Con­fu­sion in Abia INEC issues cer­tifi­cate of re­turn to Ogah I re­main gov – Ik­peazu High Court stops swear­ing-in We’d work with any of them – PDP

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Hamza Idris, Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye, John Chuks Azu (Abuja) Li­nus Ef­fiong (Umuahia) & Johnkennedy Uzoma (Ow­erri)

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 Oga 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.”

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”.

PHOTO: INEC

In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) Na­tional Com­mis­sioner in charge of South East, Am­bas­sador Lawrence Nwu­ruku (right) hands over the Abia State gu­ber­na­to­rial Cer­tifi­cate to Dr Samp­son Uchechukwu Ogah yes­ter­day as the right­ful win­ner of the April 2015 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion in Abia State as or­dered by Jus­tice O.E. Abang of the Fed­eral High Court, Abuja.

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