Uche Ogah has described the refusal of the Abia State Chief Judge, Theresa Uzoukwu, to swear him in as the duly-elected governor, as a gross disrespect of the rule of law and capable of undermining the peace and stability of the state.
A federal high court in Abuja had nullified the election of Okezie Ikpeazu on the basis that he was not qualified to run for the office in the first place, having tendered fake tax papers during the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primary in December 2014.
The court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately cede Ikpeazu’s certificate of return to Ogah, the candidate that came second in the said primary, while also ordering the Abia State Chief Judge to immediately swear in Ogah as the substantive governor of the state.
INEC on Friday presented Ogah with a certificate of return in obedience to the court order, but Ikpeazu hurriedly obtained another ruling from an Abia State high court ordering the Chief Judge not to swear Ogah in pending the determination of an appeal filed by Ikpeazu.
Ogah contended that the stay of execution of the valid order of the Federal High court procured by the embattled governor, Ikpeazu, is only a “black-market injunction” that has no force of law.
He spoke to journalists in Abuja through his Special Adviser on Public Communications, Monday Ubani, saying that there is a clear difference between a pre-election matter on which the Federal High Court premised its ruling and the post-election trial of electoral matters by tribunals.
“I am not ignorant of the black market injunction allegedly obtained by Dr. Ikpeazu at Osisioma Ngwa High court restraining the Chief Judge of Abia state from swearing in Dr Ogah. That interim order was premised on Section 143 of the Electoral Act which is only applicable to judgements obtained in Election Tribunals, but not in pre-election matters. It is a laughable ruling not worth the paper it was written,” Ubani said.
“A High Court in Abia is a court of coordinate jurisdiction with a Federal High Court and so any order given by such court to contradict an earlier order of the same court is ipso facto null and void. It is only a higher court that has the legal capacity to reverse the earlier order or judgement.”
Ubani maintained that the Federal High Court judgment should be enforced immediately since it was premised on a pre-election matter, stating that Ikpeazu was never adjudged to have been qualified to contest the election in the first place.
Meanwhile the drama over the governorship position in Abia state took a different twist with the declaration of Friday, July 1 and Monday July 4 as public holidays by Governor Ikpeazu.
The governor said the public holidays were in honour of late former foreign affairs minister, Ojo Maduekwe, who is from the state; but many say it was to enable him buy more time in order to know the next step to take.
Recall that the federal government had declared Tuesday July 5 and Wednesday, July 6, as public holidays to mark the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations; which means that civil servants in Abia State will take almost the whole week off, with exception of Friday.