Ogah vs Ikpeazu
Ogah vs Ikpeazu

AS the crises rocking Abia State over the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja that sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu from office and ordered that Uche Ugah be sworn-in immediately rages on, three heads of Nigerian judiciary are allegedly to meet discreetly and find a solution on the matter. They are the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, and the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Ndahi Auta. A highly placed source in the judiciary during the sallah break told Nigerian Pilot that the three heads of court would be meeting quietly at the Supreme Court complex to resolve the issue and advise judges in the matter to do what the laws say and not be influenced by any person, group or political party. According to the source, already the CJN is currently monitoring the events as they unfold in respect of the Abia governorship tussle. The source said that the said meeting of the senior judicial officers was to direct the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to call his colleagues to order to do the right thing without any influence from the public. The source further warned that any judge found wanting in handling the Abia matter would face sanction by the Nigerian Judicial Council chaired by the CJN. The Federal High Court in Abuja had rejected the request by Governor Ikpeazu to set aside the enrolled orders on its June 27 judgement on the state’s governorship seat. Following the June 27 judgement by Justice Okon Abang, an enrolment of the judgement orders was served on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on which basis it relied in issuing Certificate of Return to Dr. Uche Ogah. Ikpeazu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) had urged the court to set aside the enrolled orders, arguing that it formed the basis of the confusion created by INEC’s action. Olanipekun in his counter- response accused INEC and Ogah of resorting to self-help. He argued that there was no justification for presenting the certificate of return to Ogah on June 30 after INEC had received the notice of appeal and the motion for stay of execution on June 28. He urged the court to set aside the enrolled order of the court issued with respect to the judgement served on INEC, which he said was the foundation of the “purported issuance of the certificate of return” to Ogah. He also asked the court to quash the certificate of return issued to Ogah by INEC. “I urge your lordship to set aside the certificate of return purportedly issued by INEC on June 28 and handed over to the plaintiff/ respondent on June 30 during the pendency of the processes before the Court of Appeal. “Execution of judgement is not automatic as people think. The court is expected to give a time lag to the defendant/judgement debtor,” Olanipekun said. Justic Abang refused to set aside the enrolled court order, saying Section 19 of the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act relied on by Olanipekun did not define processes to include the enrolled court order. Describing Olanipekun’s application for the voiding of the court’s enrolled order as lacking in merit, Justice Abang said the court had the power to enroll its order at any time after judgement had been delivered. Olanipekun then prayed the court to adjourn the hearing to a later date in his client’s application for stay of proceedings to enable him respond to the reply filed by Ogah’s lawyer, Alex Iziyon (SAN). Iziyon objected and urged the court to set aside the order of the Abia State High Court in Osisioma restraining the chief judge of the state from swearing-in Ogah as governor and reiterate the judgement of the court. Izinyon argued that by going
ahead to obtain such an order from the Abia High Court without bringing it to the attention of Justice Abang on Monday, Ikpeazu had resorted to self-help. Izinyon asked the court to set aside the state High Court’s order and reiterate the judgement since Ikpeazu’s motion for stay of execution had allegedly achieved essentially what the motion intended to achieve. “My lord, the question to ask borders on the integrity and the sanctity of this order obtained from the Abia State High Court and the application before this court now. “They are asking for a date when they have in their pocket a court order which has tied the hands of the plaintiff, preventing him from presenting himself for swearing-in, contrary to the order of this court. “My lord, what is paramount here is that the applicant, Okezie Ikpeazu, went somewhere else to get this order from another high court. “We submit with respect that the applicant did not bring this to your lordship’s attention. They have not told your lordship that they went somewhere else to obtain the order. “Now that we have brought this to the attention of the court, our application is that your lordship will undo the act of the applicant by setting aside the order because it was made during the pendency of this application,” Iziyon said. INEC’s lawyer, Alhassan Umar justified his client’s decision to issue a certificate of return to Ogah despite the appeal filed by Ikpeazu. He argued that the mere filing of a notice of appeal by Ikpeazu could not operate as stay of proceedings to restrain INEC from executing an order of court duly served on it. “We do not object to the application for adjournment. “The certificate of return was issued before we were served with the motion on June 28. We had issued the certificate upon being served with the order. “The certificate bears the date it was issued. We were served with the motion on June 28, but we had issued the certificate upon being served with the order. “By the issuance I meant it was signed on June 28, but the actual presentation of the certificate was on June 30. “My lord, we had no difficulty in issuing the certificate because election matters are suis generis (in class of their own), and where the law intends that an appeal should operate as a stay, it is expressly stated so.” After listening to parties, Justice Abang elected to hear all pending applications, including Ikpeazu’ motion for stay of execution and Ogah’ motion to set aside the order by the Abia State High Court on Thursday. With the extension of the public holiday to Thursday, the court may extend sitting on the matter till Friday because of the urgency and sensitiveness involved in the case. Ikpeazu Challenges Removal, files 50 Grounds of Appeal The embattled Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which removed him as the state governor for not paying his taxes and forgery of his tax clearance certificate. Justice Okon Abang had on June 27 ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a certificate of return to Mr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah, who scored the second highest number of votes in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary for the selection of a governorship candidate to contest the April 2015 gubernatorial election. In his notice of appeal, Ikpeazu through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), raised 50 grounds of appeal and expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the lower court. He, therefore, joined Ogah, PDP, INEC and Sir Friday Nwanozie Nwosu as the first to fourth respondents respectively. His first ground of appeal was that the trial judge erred in law and came to a wrong decision in holding that the appellant was ineligible to participate in the primary of the second respondent by reason of presenting false information to the third respondent in INEC Form CF001 and consequently granting all the reliefs claimed by the first respondent in his originating summons. According to the second grounds of appeal, the lower court equally erred in law and reached a perverse decision when after concluding thus: “The cause of action arose in this matter when the first and second defendants forwarded Form CF001 containing alleged false information to the INEC.” He said the court went ahead to disqualify the appellant from being a candidate at the second respondent’s primary and declared the first respondent as the winner of the primary. On his third grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu held that the lower court erred in law and acted without jurisdiction when it purported to have enforced/applied the provisions of the PDP Electoral Guidelines for primary elections 32014 in determining the originating summons before it without the PDP guidelines being put in evidence before it. In his fourth grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu pointed out that the lower court also erred in law and reached a perverse decision when it held in respect of the Supreme Court decision in Ekagbara v. Ikpeazu (2016) 4 NWLR (pt. 1503) 541 thus: “In fact, in the above cited case, the Supreme Court in a way departed from its earlier decision in Kharki v. PDP… Supreme Court also held that this court has jurisdiction to entertain a suit questioning the qualification of an aspirant in a primary election by a fellow aspirant when the aspirant whose qualification is being questioned did not pay tax as and when due or where there are lapses in the tax paper of such aspirant… “In Ekagbara v. Ikpeazu (supra), the Supreme Court also held that it does not really matter that this will involve the examination of tax administration in Abia State of Nigeria.” In his fifth grounds of appeal, the appellant observed that trial judge erred in law and came to a perverse decision when he asked thus: “It is either that the information are false or correct, I do not think it is a case of forgery. I do not think facts are in dispute. “Even if the affidavits of the parties are in dispute, they are not in my view in dispute on material facts… It is for the first to second defendants to show that the information contained in documents attached to Form CF001 submitted to INEC are not false. I think the court can conveniently use the affidavit evidence placed before it to resolve issues in controversy. This suit was properly commenced by an originating summon.” In the 17th grounds of appeal, the governor observed that the lower court misdirected itself and reached a perverse decision when it held that the appellant presented false information to INEC by reason of the alleged differences between the tax receipts and the tax certificate with respect to the tax returns of 2013. In the last grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu stressed that the decision of the lower court was/is against the weight of evidence, and therefore sought the following relief from the Court of Appeal, the first being an order allowing this appeal. The second, an order setting aside all the main and consequential orders made and granted by the lower court and the last, an order dismissing or striking out the amended originating summons in suit no. FHC/ABJ/ CS/71/2016.

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