By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Innocent Anaba, Anayo Okoli, Omezia Ajayi  Abdulwahab Abdulah,  Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu & Gbenga Oke

MIXED reactions, among legal minds, yesterday trailed INEC’s issuance of certificate of returns to Uche Ogah, following Monday’s judgement by a Federal High Court, Abuja, which ruled against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. While some of the lawyers argued that INEC merely obeyed a court order, others contended that the action of the electoral commission was illegal.

Uche Ogah
Uche Ogah

Let the court decide — Sagay
In his remarks, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, SAN, said the matter should be decided by the courts.

Sagay said: “This is an unprecedented case because it has never happened in law. The only similar case was the Amaechi vs. Omehia case which was taken to the Supreme Court.
In that instance, Amaechi was the elected candidate of the party but Omehia went ahead to contest and win the election. At the end of the day, the Supreme Court ruled that Amaechi was the candidate of the party and should be the governor. In this case, Ogah came second during the primaries while Ikpeazu came first. I think the courts will be ones to decide.”

It is illegal, null and void — Ozekhome

Ozekhome said: “The action is illegal, null and void. The action is unconstitutional, illegal and of no effect whatsoever.

Judgment is laughable

“There is what you call doctrine of lis pendens which means that once matter has been submitted to Court and the parties are aware that one of the parties is already in court or on an appeal, then parties should refrain from taking any steps that will be detrimental to the other party in the matter.

“This judgement is not going to stand for so many reasons, from what I have read in the last few days, a judge who is not a member of the Election Petition Tribunal is annulling the election of a governor after the governor has been successfully elected and after he has fought his election up to the Supreme and the Supreme Court validated his election.

“To me, the judgement given by my learned judge is laughable and I can assure you, neither the Appeal Court nor the Supreme Court will uphold that funny judgement.”

Ikpeazu should show that INEC was served –Ngige

In his remarks, Chief Emeka Ngige,SAN, said: ‘’Based on the facts that I have, INEC may be right if only they have not been served a notice of appeal and stay of execution by Ikpeazu. But if they have been served they cannot issue the Certificate of Return. The burden is now on Ikpeazu to show that INEC has been served a notice of appeal and stay of execution, in which case, he can remain in office.”

Action can lead to chaos —Babatunde Fashanu, SAN.

Fashanu said, “This is no rocket science at all. If the incumbent has indeed appealed, he is deemed by law to still be the governor until his appeal is determined. Because of his right to appeal within 21 days of the judgement of the Election Tribunal, he is also deemed to remain in office until the expiration of the 21 days even if he did not file an appeal (see Section 143 of the Electoral Act) .

“In my view, INEC should have waited for the appeal to be determined before issuing the certificate in the event the appeal fails. The action is precipitous and pre-emptive and can lead to chaos. The certificate should be withdrawn immediately.

It’s wrong, says Adeshina, ex-NBA scribe
Former national secretary of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Deacon Dele Adeshina, SAN, said it is wrong to issue the certificate while appeal is pending. As long as appeal has been filed against the judgement and there is stay of execution, it will be totally wrong and illegal for INEC to issue certificate of return to another person. It will be premature for INEC to execute the judgement.

INEC’s action, affront on judiciary — Agbaje
Fred Agbaje, rights activist and constitutional lawyer said anything goes in a free society.

He added: “INEC’s action was an affront on judiciary. Since, there is an appeal, the commission needs to have waited for the outcome of court of appeal on the matter before taking any step. INEC is supposed to wait for court of appeal to decide the fate of the man. The action of the commission is illegal and cannot stand the test of law. What the commission did was to donate power to the opponent of the governor, what if the court of appeal upturns the judgement? The action of the commission is unacceptable in law and it is illegal.”

INEC National Commissioner in charge of the South East, Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku issuing Certificate of Return to Uchechukwu Ogah as Governor of Abia State, on Thursday, June 30, 2016
INEC National Commissioner in charge of the South East, Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku issuing Certificate of Return to Uchechukwu Ogah as Governor of Abia State, on Thursday, June 30, 2016

INEC complied with a court order — Ubani
Mr Monday Ubani, Ex NBA, Ikeja chairman said, INEC complied with court order. INEC complied with the order of the court. We are also expecting the chief judge of the state to swear in Ogar, because that is the order of court.

“I hear a particular high court in Osisioma Ngwa issued an injunction, The Osisioma court is a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the Federal High Court. If there is any order to be made and obeyed, it should be an order from a higher court. When was the case filed and when was it assigned and served, even if it is on ex-parte. You can only upturn the existing order of a court if its a higher court.

Appeal no excuse to disobey court order — Igbinedion
An Edo State-born rights activist and legal practitioner, Dele Igbinedion shared a contrary view on the matter. He said once there is a judgment, it must be obeyed by the parties. An appeal, he said, was not an excuse to disobey court order.

“It is the right of the governor to appeal against the judgment but that does not mean that the judgment was not in existence, the moment the court made pronouncement on the matter, the judgment has comes into existence.”

Mr Kunle Ogunba, SAN
I must state first and foremost state that I don’t have the full facts of the matter. But the question I will like to ask and have an answer is: Did his lawyers file for stay of execution of the judgment? I read that they have appealed, but did they also go back to the lower court to ask for a stay? I know that an appeal does not act as a stay in all cases, so, was an application for stay filed, because there is no law stopping the beneficiary of a judgment from enjoying the fruit of his labour. But if an application for stay was filed and served on parties, I believe it will be wrong for the authorities involved not to wait for the outcome of appeal.”

It’s a conspiracy, says Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
Adegboruwa who alleged conspiracy by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to play the case to its advantage, said: “There is said to be a grand plan, now in its well advanced stage, to swear in Ogah, who will then subsequently defect to the ruling APC, on the excuse of the factionalization within the PDP between Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Markafi.

“On June 29, 2016, the sitting governor of Abia State, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu, filed an appeal against the said judgment, together with an application for a stay of execution of the judgment of court. The said application is yet to be heard or determined by the court, the consequence of which is that the judgment of court cannot be enforced.

“It is well settled in our laws, 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. It is a dangerous precedent that the APC led government is setting for our democracy, if it is lying in wait and prodding INEC to violate the basic tenets of democracy, which is respect for the rule of law and due process.”

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