From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
An Abia State Magistrate Court in Umuahia, yesterday, convicted Mr. Uche Ogah, immediate past Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, of forgery, following a criminal complaint brought by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The state chapter of the party had dragged Ogah to court with a complaint that he did not participate in the governorship primary election of the party held on May 26, but went ahead and forged the party’s direct primary election result sheet “with intent that it may be acted on as genuine”.
The complainant stated that the forgery perpetrated by Ogah was prejudicial to the party and its “authentic governorship flag bearer in Abia State (High Chief Ikechi Emenike), and, thereby, committed an offence contrary to Section 465 of the Criminal Code (as applicable in Abia) and punishable under Section 467.
Delivering judgment on the suit No. UMSC/362/2022, Magistrate Ngozi N. Nwangwa held that the defendant/respondent “is guilty as charged”, adding, “I’m convinced that the defendant has no defence. I, hereby, commit Dr Uche Ogah for the offence as charged.”
Since the defendant was not in court, the magistrate ordered security agencies to arrest him anywhere he is found and keep him in the nearest correctional centre, pending the day he would be brought to court for sentencing.
Ogah had failed to appear before the court since November when the matter came up for hearing, and he, also, did not send any counsel to represent him. When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, the magistrate stated that she had been served a copy of a petition written by Ogah to both the Chief Judge and and the Attorney General, alleging “bias and compromise”.
But the lead counsel of APC, Mr. Vigilus Nwankwo, submitted that the said petition was the unusual antics adopted by those wanting to evade justice, adding that the outcome could not stay proceedings based on the petition.
Citing Order 40 Rule 6(1) of the Abia State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2007, Nwankwo noted that what the defendant did was an administrative step and not a formal application before the court for stay of proceedings. The APC counsel further cited Section 305 of the Abia Criminal Justice Law, which stipulates that application for stay of proceedings, in respect of any criminal case, “shall not be entertained”.
Having found merit in the submissions of the counsel to the complainant/applicant, the magistrate granted the request for the prosecution to continue with the proceedings. The sole prosecution witness, Chief Chidi Avajah, who is the state secretary of Abia APC, was led in evidence to adopt his written depositions dated November 30, 2022, in respect of the criminal case.
The depositions admitted as exhibit by the court also contained affidavits deposed to by both the chairman and secretary of the APC governorship primary election panel for Abia, Chief Tony Obiefuna and Mr. Chukwudi Kanu, respectively, stating that their signatures were forged by the respondent, Ogah.
Since the respondent failed to open his defence on the charges against him, the prosecution, after making its submissions, closed its case and urged the court “to accept the documentary evidence, rely on them and act on them”.