Pandemonium may ensue in Abia State should the relevant authorities refuse to wade in and solve the legal puzzles currently taking over the politics of the state as two members of the Peoples Democratic Party are laying claim to a governor's seat.
Mr. Uche Ogar has insisted that he is the rightful governor of Abia state and has to be sworn-in in obedience to the ruling of the Abuja High court.
Ogar in a statement by his Media Adviser, Monday Ubani, stated that the ruling by the Abia state high court stopping his swearing in is subordinate to that of the Abuja court, and hence cannot hold.
Ogar also stated that he was on his way to Abia state to be sworn in.
This is likely to create a faceoff, between his tam and that of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who has also insisted that he remains the governor of the state, based on the ruling of the state high court.
The statement from Ogar reads: “The Federal high court of Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang ordered Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to vacate his seat for Dr Uche Ogah OON as the rightful person for the seat. INEC was ordered to issue the said Ogah with a certificate of return which that body has complied with”.
“The next order that was issued by the federal high court was for the Chief Judge of Abia to swear in Dr Uche Ogah, the rightful person to occupy the governor’s seat. That order is yet to be complied with”.
“I understand that a high court in Osisioma Ngwa the axis where the governor hails from has issued an interim order restraining the Chief Judge from swearing in Dr Uche Ogah as the governor of the State. The point must be made that this order cannot stand as it is invalid in law”.
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“The order did not emanate from a higher court but from a court of coordinate jurisdiction and does not in any vitiate or invalidate the earlier judgement of the Federal High Court in which the Chief Judge of Abia State was ordered to swear in Dr Uche Sampson Ogah. Only a higher court, in this case Court of Appeal has the jurisdiction to reverse the judgement of the Federal High Court”.
“Note also that appeal of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu before the Court of Appeal does not operate as a stay over the judgement of Justice Okon Abang. In the absence of any express order of the high court or the court of appeal ordering stay of execution, the judgement of the Federal High Court delivered on the 27th of June, 2016 should be obeyed by all the parties.”
Speaking through another aide, Peter Agba Kalu, Mr. Ogah said he was on his way to Umuahia, the Abia State capital for swearing in.
He said, “We are en route to Umuahia for the swearing in from Imo Airport.
“We don’t believe there is an injunction like that. The injunction is baseless and against the rules of the judiciary”.
“Is the injunction saying that the Certificate of return issued to Uche Ogah is not legal. Is it saying that Abia should not have a Governor because the Certificate of return nollifies that issued to Ikpeazu”, the statement read.
“We also have a directive by the CJN that he should be sworn in immediately. So that injunction to the best of our knowledge does not exist and where it exist is null and void because it has already been overtaken by events.”
Meanwhile, As soon as INEC’s issuance of the Certificate of Return to Ogah was announced, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu rushed to the law courts to obtain an ex- parte order restraining the Chief Judge or any other judge of the court or any judicial officer of the state from swearing-in Ogah as the new governor of the state.
And after receiving his certificate from INEC, Ogah took a chartered flight from Abuja to Umuahia, the state capital, for the oath-taking ceremony. He, however, ended up in Owerri, the Imo State capital, where he unveiled his governance blueprint for the state.
Ikpeazu also rose to the challenge, when he appealed to the people to remain calm and assured them that the matter would be resolved by the courts.
In the court injunction he issued yesterday, Justice C. H. Ahuchaogu, of the Osisioma Judicial Division, restrained INEC from issuing certificate of return to Ogah “while the claimant (Ikpeazu) remains in office.”
Ikpeazu had, through his counsel, Mr. O. O. Nkume, filed an ex parte motion seeking an order of the court to stop Ogah from being sworn in as the Governor of the state.
The defendants in the motion are: Ogah (first defendant), INEC (second defendant) and the Abia State Chief Judge (third defendant).
As the confusion and political tension in the state threatened to boil over into unrests, Ikpeazu appealed to the people to remain calm in spite of the unsavoury developments.
He insisted that he was still in charge. In a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Enyinnaya Apollos, the governor expressed surprise over INEC’s action despite his notice of appeal against the Justice Okon Abang’s judgement that ordered him to vacate office.
He said: “I have received, with concern, reports of the purported issuance of certificate of return to Mr. Uche Ogah by INEC as governor of Abia State, despite the pendency 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,” he said.