By Ugochukwu Alaribe and Omeiza Ajayi
The confusion, triggered by Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, who obtained a court order which sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and affirmed him as governor-elect, expanded, at the weekend, as the third contender to the Abia governorship emerged.
A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant in the state, Friday Nwosu, filed a suit against the judgment of the Federal High Court which declared Ogah as governor-elect.
Nwosu averred that the court, having disqualified Ikpeazu as the governorship candidate of the PDP in Abia in the 2015 polls, should have declared him as governor-elect and not Ogah.
The PDP governorship aspirant argued that the court ought not to have allowed Ogah to benefit from the primary election he condemned by refusing to sign the result while also petitioning the leadership of the party and asking it to conduct another primary election.
Meanwhile, Ogah, yesterday, described as an affront on the rule of law the refusal of the Abia State Chief Judge, Theresa Uzoukwu, to swear him in as “the only elected governor” of the state.
In his Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/71/2016, filed at the Federal High Court, Owerri against Ogah, the PDP, Ikpeazu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nwosu is seeking five reliefs: “An order setting aside the declaration of the 1st respondent, Uche Ogah, as the elected governor of Abia State as declared by the trial court, an order that the 1st respondent is stopped from claiming any right or benefit from the 2nd respondent’s (PDP) gubernatorial primary election of 8/12/2014 in Abia State having waived his right to do so; an order striking out the 1st respondent’s (Uche Ogah)’s suit on the ground that it constitutes an abuse of court process; an order that the suit of 1st respondent i.e. (Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/71/2016) is incompetent and the trial court lacks the jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit.”
He further stated: “The judgment is in error and cannot stand judicial scrutiny. Dr. Uche Ogah should not be allowed to benefit from an exercise he totally condemned by refusing to sign the result and petitioning the party to conduct another primary election. He should wait for the rerun of the PDP primary which he prayed for in his petition to the party. In the eyes of the law, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Sir Friday Nwosu were the only candidates who ran for the party primary. Since Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has been disqualified, I remain the lawful candidate of the PDP and ought to be declared governor.”
Justice A.I. Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Owerri has fixed tomorrow and Tuesday to hear Nwosu’s suit against Ikpeazu and Ogah.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that Nwosu was the first aspirant to file a tax forgery suit against Ikpeazu and joined Ogah as one of the respondents in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/184/2015, FHC/UM/CS/64/2015 and FHC/CS/OW/191/2015. The suit, filed at the Federal High Court 7, Abuja, and presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, had suffered several delays before it was transferred to Umuahia after which Nwosu petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, accusing Justice F.A. Olubanjo of bias. As a result of the petition, Auta transferred the matter to the Federal High Court, Owerri, then presided over by Justice S.M.Shuaibu. Shuaibu was soon transferred to Kaduna Division, but was granted an assignment order to hear and conclude the matter. The assignment order was later revoked by Auta when Ikpeazu’s counsel, C.C. Elele, protested and accused Shuaibu of bias.
Rule of law on trial – Ogah
Describing as an affront on the rule of law, the refusal of the state’s Chief Judge, Theresa Uzoukwu, to swear him in as the duly-elected governor of the state, yesterday, Ogah, said the action was capable of undermining the peace and stability of Abia. He contended that the stay of execution of the order of court procured by Ikpeazu was a black-market injunction that had no force of law.
The court-declared governor-elect, who spoke to journalists in Abuja through his Special Adviser on Public Communications, Monday Onyekachi Ubani, said there was a clear difference between a pre-election matter on which the Federal High Court premised its ruling and the post-election trial of matters by tribunals on the issue of stay of execution or arrest of judgement.
“I am not ignorant of the black market injunction allegedly obtained by Dr Ikpeazu at Osisioma Ngwa High Court restraining the Chief Judge of Abia State from swearing-in Dr Ogah. That interim order was premised on Section 143 of the Electoral Act which is only applicable to judgments obtained in election tribunals, but not in pre-election matters. It is a laughable ruling not worth the paper it was written. For God’s sake, a High Court in Abia is a court of coordinate jurisdiction with a Federal High Court and so any order given by such court to contradict an earlier order of the same court is ipso facto null and void. It is only a higher court that has the legal capacity to reverse the earlier order or judgement,” he stated.
“In a pre-election matter the enforceability of a court judgement is immediate as the losing side in the legal argument, in this case, Dr Ikpeazu, was never adjudged to have been qualified to contest the election in the first place while in a post-election matter the mandate enjoyed by an incumbent subsists until the tribunal or appellate courts rule otherwise.
“Failure or delay to swear Dr Ogah in as the duly elected Governor of Abia State is an unqualified affront to the rule of law and constitutional governance in a true democracy, and an act that is capable of undermining the peace and stability of the state. Dr Ikpeazu has been duly removed as Abia State Governor and no amount of legal shenanigans and illegal public holidays will derail the law of the land taking full effect. Dr Ogah will be sworn-in in due course so as to avoid the dangerous power vacuum that currently exists in Abia State, and for him to begin the urgent task of empowering Abians with his laudable developmental programmes already lined up”.
He stated that INEC acted within its powers as a law-abiding institution in issuing Dr Ogah a certificate of return “so as to avoid an unpalatable leadership vacuum in the state”.
Ubani stressed:”The court having found that the information Dr Ikpeazu supplied about his tax payments were all false, ruled that he was not qualified to have participated in the primary election of PDP in Dec 2014, that all the votes he gathered at the said primaries were invalid and of no effect, in fact wasted. Since a general election has been held and the PDP won, Dr Ikpeazu was asked to vacate his seat while the certificate of return should be issued to Dr Ogah who came second during the primary election. He was ordered to be sworn in by the Chief Judge of Abia State immediately. Note the word used by the presiding judge was immediately. Enrollment order was procured by Dr Uche Ogah and INEC was served and they obeyed the extant judgement of the Federal High Court by issuing Dr Ogah with the certificate of return”.
He described Dr Ogah as a man of peace who has already stretched out his hand of fellowship to his predecessor to join him in the task of building the state. “His Excellency is a man of peace and he has extended a positive arm of peace not just to his predecessor alone, but to all his predecessor’s supporters because as members of the same political party, it is in the interest of the party and the good people of the state that they close ranks and work together for a smooth transfer of power and the unhampered running of the new administration”.