- Says INEC right to issue Certificate of Return
By Willy Eya
LAWYER and rights activist, Festus Keyamo declared yesterday that Abia governor, Okezie Ikpeazu was occupying the office illegally.
Keyamo also said issuance of a Certificate of Return to Dr Uche Ogah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was in order.
Keyamo said contrary to opinions expressed in certain quarters, nothing prevented INEC from complying immediately with the orders of the Federal High Court.
He said Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, Part VIII which gave Ikpeazu 21 days within which to file an appeal against an adverse judgment applied only to post-election matters before election tribunals or the Court of Appeal and not pre-election matters as it was in this case.
The scenario now, he said, is that of a person, without any document entitling him to the governor’s office, whilst a person who has both a valid court judgment and Certificate of Return is unable to assume office as governor of the state.
“Let the world know today that Ikpeazu is operating illegally as governor of Abia State and all his actions, orders and anything done in that capacity are null, void and of no effect.”
He explained that in the circumstance, INEC acted legally and correctly by instantly issuing a Certificate of Return to Ogah.
“It would have been permissible for Ikpeazu to continue in office as governor of Abia State pending the outcome of the appeal despite the judgment of the Federal High Court (and the nullification of his Certificate of Return) if Ogah had not been issued a certificate of return instantly.
“But, having been issued the Certificate of Return, it is constitutionally abnormal and legally paradoxical that a person with a validly issued Certificate of Return should not occupy that office and the person with an invalidated Certificate of Return continues to occupy that office.
“That is why the Interim Order restraining the Chief Judge of Abia State or any other judicial officer from swearing in Ogah is non-sequitur as the judgment of Justice Abang has already been complied with by INEC.”
On June 29, two days after a Federal High Court in Abuja quashed Ikpeazu’s election over forgery of tax certificate and ordered Ogah to be sworn in, INEC issued a Certificate of Return to the latter.