From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Controversy and confusion has continued to trail the Appeal Court judgment on the Abia State governorship crisis.
The appellate court ruled that the parties, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and Dr Uche Ogah should maintain the status quo pending the determination of the earlier suit challenging Ikpeazu’s removal from office.
Some lawyers have argued that the judgment by the appellate court sitting in Abuja had created more confusion since no stay-of-execution order was issued, even as Ogah has his Certificate of Return as issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which impliedly supersedes the one earlier issued to Ikpeazu.
The lawyers submitted that Ogah could still go ahead to enforce the Abuja High Court judgment as the appellate court has expressly stated that the lower court’s order had not been vacated.
But Kevin Godwin Abonyi of Oseloka Osigwe Chambers, Nnewi, Anambra State, said what was important to determine was the prayer of the appellant.
He, however, said based on media report concerning the Appeal Court judgment on the matter, Ikpeazu should remain the governor of Abia State.
“What I infer from this judgment is that the parties should maintain the status quo. It means every action should be on hold including the swearing in of Uche Ogah. It does not matter whether the panel of judges expressly stated this or not.
“Ogah should not go ahead to fight for his swearing in even though the Federal High Court, Abuja order still subsists,” Abonyi submitted.
Lawyers against the judgment, however, maintained that Ikpeazu was governing Abia State without a valid Certificate of Return and insisted that Ogah must be sworn in since there was no stay of execution order issued by the appellate court.
A five-member panel of judges, led by Morenike Ogunwumiju, said the parties in the matter must “remain as they were” before the case got to the court.
She said the ruling did not mean a stay-of-execution order.
A Federal High Court had on June 27 nullified Mr. Ikpeazu’s election after finding him guilty of tax offences. The court, presided by Okon Abang ordered INEC to issue Samson Ogah a certificate of return.
On Tuesday, counsel to Mr. Ogah argued that Mr. Ikpeazu was not legally occupying the Abia State house. He said there were conflicting judgments on the matter. But the judge, Mrs. Ogunwumiju, said the court considered it important to avoid a misinterpretation of its ruling.
She said the decision of the court that parties to “remain as they were” should not be misconstrued as meaning that the appellate court had issued a stay-of-execution order.