Barrister Nkechi Chukwueke, a frontline activist, public affairs analyst and lawyer was a former spokesperson for the Federation Of International Women Lawyers (FIDA). In this interview, she bares her mind on the legal conundrum in her home state of Abia, calling for the swearing-in of Uche Ogar as the governor of the state. Excerpts:
By Dapo Akinrefon
What is your take on the legal conundrum in Abia?
My take on the matter is that the court order which annulled the election of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a Certificate of Return to Sampson Uche Ogar and swear him in as the governor of Abia state stands. In fact, speaking from a legal perspective, I make bold to say that by the strength of that landmark judgement, Ogar is the governor of Abia State because he has the Certificate of Return. Ikpeazu was never meant to be there because he made a false declaration. The content of the certificate he presented for his tax clearance is faulty; you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
From the moment that certificate of return was issued to Ogar, the one in the custody of Ikpeazu is no longer valid. So, Ikpeazu occupying the seat of Abia State governor after that judgement is null and void; in the eyes of the law, he is no longer the number one citizen of Abia State. What I expect Ikpeazu to have done as a law abiding citizen is to obey that court order and vacate the seat. Immediately the judgement was given, INEC promptly complied; Ikpeazu should have done the same. He has a right of appeal even to the Supreme Court but that should have been after he has obeyed the judgement of the Federal High Court asking him to vacate the office and Ogar sworn -in.
If at the end of the day the Supreme Court upturns the judgement of the lower court, then Ogar will vacate that seat. Two governors cannot be occupying a single seat. The fact that INEC complied with that judgement is instructive. They must have done a thorough investigation with their legal team and then decided to obey the order. Ikpeazu should have done the same. When a judgement is given by a court, even if that court is a magistrate court, that order must be obeyed whether the judgement is good or bad, favourable or not.
It should be obeyed until it is set aside by a higher court. A magistrate court order cannot be set aside by another magistrate court.
But an Abia State High Court in Osisioma has barred the Chief Judge from swearing-in Ogar after the judgement of the Federal High Court affirming him as the governor?
That to me is an illegal act. It was a kangaroo judgement; it is borne out of desperation and a total disrespect for legal authority.
I am wondering why elder statesmen and leaders in the state are not talking about what is going on.