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Abia: One State, Two Governors

Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia Governor, Pensioners, Court
Posted: Jul 1, 2016 at 4:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 

  • INEC Issues Certificate Of Return To Ogah
  • Ikpeazu Says ‘I Am Still The Governor’
  • This Is A New Dawn In Abia – Ogah
  • Court Stops Chief Judge From Swearing In Ogah
  • Residents Panic, Police, Soldiers In High Alert

 

 

Tony Ezimakor, Ben Duru, Vincent Anolu and Emeka Okafor

Abuja/Umuahia/Aba

Confusion reigned supreme in Abia State on Thursday following the issuance of certificate of return to Samson Uchechukwu Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the governor of Abia State, where the incumbent governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, dismissed the action, saying, “The status quo remains, I am still the governor of Abia State”.

Ogah, a People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) member, was supposed to be sworn in today by the chief judge. But a High Court of Abia State has stopped the chief judge, president of the Customary Court of Appeal and any other judicial officer from swearing in Ogah as governor.

An Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang had on Monday sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu also of the PDP for tax evasion in a pre-election matter brought against him.

Ogar, who came second in the PDP primaries consequentially, latched on court which directed INEC to issue him with the certificate of return with immediate effect.

Following these developments, residents out of fear began hurrying to their homes as police and soldiers positioned in strategic areas for fear of breakdown of law and order. At Government House, Umuahia, security was beefed up, as vehicles entering the place were thoroughly searched. Tension soaked civil servants were seen in groups discussing the matter.

Explaining the action of INEC in Abuja, Amb Lawrence Nwuruku, commissioner representing the South East in the commission, said the commission issued the certificate of return to Ogah as Abia governor-elect in obedience to the order of court.

“The situation is we are simply obeying the court order. The court said with immediate effect, we should issue him certificate of return, and that is what we have done. If court tomorrow issues another order we will obey the same. By the grace of God I am the INEC commissioner in charge of South East. I will do the same thing if court orders us to do so. In this case, court ordered us to issue certificate to the person who won the election that is Uchechukwu Ogah.

“I was the person who issued certificate of return to Governor Ikpeazu because he was declared winner. Now the court is saying otherwise. One thing is that, we are not above the law and we cannot disobey the law of the land. After the court, another person we obey is God. And my conscience is my God. If you were in the court that day and I will urge you, members of the media to go and study court decision very well. It was wonderful, it was direct”, Nwuruku said.

Asked if the commission took cognisance of the appeal filed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Nwuruku said the commission would oblige Okezie another certificate if the court so rules.

“We write it, the certificates are there. Even the certificate of Mr. President is there. It is just the signature that matters. We will just file it.

“We strictly want to obey court order. If there is another court judgment overruling us that it was wrong to have issued certificate, by God’s grace I am still alive, I will do it again, I will give it to Ikpeazu, after all, I was the person that gave it to him in Abuja and the same thing is happening today, that is one thing people don’t understand.”

Having issued the certificate, he explained that the commission cannot enforce any order of the court since it is not in its mandate to so do.

“INEC is not army or police that monitor court orders. We have our own responsibilities to carry out election and do election.

“If we give certificates and somebody says he cannot execute it that is left for him to talk with law enforcement agencies”.

But Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, the spokesman for INEC, said the electoral umpire issued certificate of return to Ogah after Ikpeazu failed to send notice of appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court on Monday.

Contrary to claims by INEC that it did not receive any notice of appeal from Ikpeazu or an injunction stopping the commission from issuing a certificate of return to Ugah, the Attorney General of Abia State, Umeh Kalu, said that INEC lied in its claims.

A proof of service has shown that the commission did indeed receive the two important documents and it was signed for by Saleh N. Ibrahim, Senior Clerical Officer at the Legal Services Department of the commission’s headquarters, Abuja, who stamped the notice of appeal and injunction with the commission’s official stamp by 12.50p.m on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

“It’s unfortunate that INEC said that it was not served. But the truth is that they were served. I have a proof to that. Saleh N. Ibrahim, Senior Clerical Officer at the Legal Services Department of the commission’s headquarters, Abuja, stamped the notice of appeal and injunction with the commission’s official stamp by 12.50pm on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

“With the foregoing, it is now clear that the commission had no reason or cause to proceed with their dangerous action of issuing a certificate of return to Dr. Uche Ogah when it was clearly in receipt of a notice of appeal and stay of execution expressly forbidding them from taking any further action on the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court pending the determination of the appeal in the case.

“It is rather surprising that the commission could lend itself to be used for an act capable of destabilising a state in Nigeria with the attendant consequences for anarchy and breakdown of law and order”, Kalu said.

Meanwhile, Governor Ikpeazu urged residents of Abia State to disregard claims of his removal from office as governor.

Ikpeazu said the residents should continue their normal business activities, saying there was no legal backing for such claims to manifest.

In a statement he issued shortly after report circulated that Ogah had been issued certificate of return by INEC, Ikpeazu said it was wrong for the electoral body to have proceeded with such action since he had appealed the ruling.

“I have received with concern report of the purported issuance of certificate of return to Mr. Uche Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as governor of Abia State, despite dependency of a notice of appeal and motion for stay of the orders made by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

“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, unless and until the appellant courts have conclusively resolved the appeal, the status remains, I am still the governor of Abia State,” Ikpeazu said.

However, Dr. Samson Uchechukwu Ogah has described the eventual realisation of his governorship ambition as a further vindication of the confidence reposed in the nation’s judiciary as the last hope of the common man.

Ogah, who spoke to newsmen shortly on arrival at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri from Abuja where he was issued with a certificate of return stated that by his eventual success, the people of Abia State would not only enjoy more democracy dividends, but would be accorded equal opportunities in all facets of his government.

The business mogul turned politician who hails from Isiukwuato council area of the state, therefore, called for concerted efforts from the people of the state including his opponents, urging them to join hands with him in the task of moving the state forward as he pledged to run an all inclusive government.

According to him, “This is a new dawn in Abia; a fresh air has come to the people.”

Umuahia, the Abia State capital, was soaked with confusion, fear and anxiety as the streets were immediately deserted and shops closed for the day as people prepared for the worst.

At Government House, Umuahia, the atmosphere was charged and tension in the air as top government officials and party leaders were locked in meetings to discuss the matter and chart the way forward.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who was billed to deliver a lecture at the Abia State University, Uturu, cancelled the event and returned to Government House with the retinue of aides that traveled with him.

Though security seemed not threatened as residents were hurrying home, yet there seemed to be an increase in the number of policemen within the city especially at Ishi Gate where the head office of Ogah’s campaign organisation is situated.

The same obtained at the various entry points into the capital city where soldiers from the 14 Brigade, Ohafia, mounted roadblocks since the days of kidnapping.

This time the soldiers were seen seriously searching vehicles entering and leaving the city.

When Independent called at the Bende Road headquarters of the Abia State Police Command, the commissioner of police was said to have gone out on special duty.

At the Umuwaya campaign headquarters of Ogah, who was the first runner up in the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held at the Umuahia Township Stadium in December 2014, activities heightened as supporters from the three senatorial districts were seen going in and out rejoicing.

However, a High Court of Abia State has stopped the chief judge of Abia, president of the Customary Court of Appeal and any other judicial officer from swearing in Uche Ogah as governor of the state.

The order made on Thursday in court by Justice Ahuchaogu reads: “Upon this motion ex-parte pursuant to section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and pending the determination of the motion on notice, after hearing O.O Nkume, counsel to the applicant.

“It is ordered that an order of injunction is hereby made restraining the 2nd defendant (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to the 1st defendant (Ogah) while the claimant (Ikpeazu) remains in office in accordance with  section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and pending the determination of the motion on notice.

“It is further ordered that the 3rd defendant (chief judge of Abia State) or any other judge of the court or any judicial officer are hereby restricted from swearing in the 1st defendant (Ogah) while the claimant (Ikpeazu) remains in office in accordance with section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and pending the determination of the motion on notice.

“It is also ordered that this order is hereby made to last for 10 days from today. The returnable date is fixed for the 8th day of July, 2016.

“Furthermore, the condition attached to this order is that the enrolled order must be served along with the motion on notice on respondents, else the order automatically lapses on 8th July, 2016.”

Also, in a motion of ex-parte order, the court also restricted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to Ogah.

The order reads: “An order of injunction restraining the 2nd defendant (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to the 1st defendant (Ogah) while the claimant (Ikpeazu) remains in office in accordance with section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and pending the determination of the motion on notice.

“An order of injunction restraining the 3rd defendant (chief judge of Abia State) or any other judge of the court, or any judicial officer from swearing in the 1st defendant (Ogah) while the claimant (Ikpeazu) remains in office in accordance with section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and pending the determination of the motion on notice.”