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Court halts Ogah’s swearing-in as Abia governor

By Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin), Bertram Nwannekanma, Godwin Dunia (Lagos), Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia) and Terhemba Daka (Abuja)
01 July 2016   |   3:44 am
Victory dance by Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah who an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang on Monday ordered to be issued a Certificate of Return as Abia State ...
Uchechukwu Ogah

Uchechukwu Ogah

• I’m still in charge, says Ikpeazu
• CNPP, lawyers disagree

Victory dance by Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah who an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang on Monday ordered to be issued a Certificate of Return as Abia State governor to replace Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has stopped for now.

Despite the Certificate of Return issued to Ogah, Ikpeazu has told people of the state that he remains their governor by virtue of the notice to appeal and motion for stay of the execution of the order he has filed at the Appeal Court.

Also, a State High Court sitting at Osisioma Ngwa yesterday pronounced an order of injunction restraining INEC from issuing a Certificate of Return to Ogah while Ikpeazu remains governor of the state.

But Abang had given the order when he delivered a judgment in a case instituted by Ogah of the same Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Ikpeazu in which he accused the governor of submitting false information in his tax clearance certificate to the party during the governorship primaries in the state

All that have, however, fueled the controversy as divergent views have emerged as to the appropriateness of the certificate INEC issued Ogah.

While the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties(CNPP) has commended the move, senior lawyers, among them Abeny Mohammed (SAN), Mike Ahamba (SAN) Lagos-based Ebun Olu Adegboruwa disagree.

Ikpeazu said he would continue in office as the state governor pending the determination of his appeal against the Abuja court judgment.

He said: “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 appeal to Abians to remain calm and law abiding in the face of this provocation, unless and until the appellant courts have conclusively resolved the appeal and as this status remains, I am still the governor of Abia State.”

But the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi yesterday justified issuance of the certificate.

He told The Guardian: “According to a certified true copy of the judgment signed by the Court Registrar, Mr. Olawale M. Oladoyin dated 27th June 2016 and served on INEC, Justice Abang specifically ordered: “Independent National Electoral Commission, the Third Defendant herein is hereby ordered forthwith 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.”

In a statement issued yesterday, the CNPP in the statement signed by its National Chairman, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and the Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu said: “What has happened in Abia State shows that the era of impunity is gone forever. President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be commended for this singular demonstration of courage to do what is right in line with the court judgment that ordered the issuance of the Certificate of return to Ogah who came second in the Abia State PDP governorship primary.”

But constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria ( SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba and Adegboruwa yesterday kicked against the issuance of certificate of return to Ogah even when Ikpeazu has filed an appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos that ousted him as governor.

In their separate reactions, Ahamba and Adegboruwa expressed surprise at the action, saying it does not follow the normal judicial procedure.

“If a stay of execution has been filed, no further action should be done in the matter until it is finally settled in court,” Ahamba said.

To Adegboruwa, it is well settled up to the Supreme Court, that once an appeal has been filed against a judgment and the appellant has also filed an application to stay the execution of the said judgment, that judgment cannot be enforced, until the application for a stay of execution has been heard and determined.

To senior lawyer, Abeny Mohammed the issuance of Certificate of Return by INEC to Samson Ogah who contested the governorship ticket with Ikpeazu would create unprecedented crisis in the state if not handled with tact and caution.