Human right lawyer, Festus Keyamo has described the continued stay in power of the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, whose election was nullified by a Federal High court, as “constitutionally abnormal”and “illegal.”
The court sitting in Abuja on June 27, had ordered Ikpeazu to vacate his seat for submitting fake tax clearance for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary election in the state.
The court therefore declared that Uche Ogah , who came second at primaries, should be declared winner instead.
But due to the failure of Ikpeazu to vacate office, Ogah, whom INEC already issued a certificate of return, is yet to be officially sworn in as governor.
“A thorough scrutiny of the judgment of the court will reveal that, contrary to widespread opinion that Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah’s case was that Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu presented forged tax papers to the Independent National Electoral Commission, his case was simply that Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu apparently rushed to pay all his backlog of taxes just before the elections, yet he swore to a false affidavit and supplied a false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission that he paid his taxes AS AT WHEN DUE. It was based on this false information that the court nullified his candidature,” Keyamo said.
He continued: “I have carefully listened to various arguments regarding the immediate issuance of a Certificate of Return to Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission in strict compliance with the judgment of the Court.
“Contrary to opinions expressed in certain quarters there is no judicial decision or statutory provision preventing the Independent National Electoral Commission from complying immediately with the Orders of the Federal High Court.
“The provision of Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, Part VIII that gives Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (or any other office holder for that matter) 21 days within which to file an appeal against an adverse judgment (and to remain in office until the appeal is determined) applies only to post-election matters before election Tribunals or the Court of Appeal and not pre-election matters as in this case.
“In the circumstance, the Independent National Electoral Commission acted legally and correctly by instantly issuing a Certificate of Return to Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah.
“It would have been permissible for Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu to continue in office as Governor of Abia State pending the outcome of the appeal despite the judgment of the Federal High Court (and the nullification of his Certificate of Return) if Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah had not been issued a Certificate of return instantly.
“But having been issued a Certificate of Return, it is constitutionally abnormal and legally paradoxical that a person with a validly issued Certificate of Return should not occupy that office immediately, and the person with an invalidated Certificate of Return continues to occupy that office.
“That is why the Interim Order restraining the Chief Judge of Abia State or any other Judicial Officer from swearing in Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah is a non-sequitor as the judgment of Abang J has already been complied with by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The scenario we have now is that of a person, without any document entitling him to that office, occupying the office of Governor of Abia State, whilst a person who has both a valid court judgment and a valid Certificate of Return is unable to assume office as Governor of the state.
“Let the world know today that Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu is operating illegally as Governor of Abia State and all his actions, orders and anything done in that capacity are null, void and of no effect.”
However, the Nigeria Governors Forum has said it is concerned about the current political impasse in the state, adding that t is taking steps to ensuring the crisis does not lead to a total break down of law and order.