BARELY four days after the Federal High Court in Abuja reaffirmed the sacking of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as Abia State governor, concerned groups have called for the inauguration of Uche Ogah as governor.
Justice Okon Abang had, in a resumed hearing on Friday, refused to grand Ikpeazu’s application for stay of execution of his earlier judgment sacking him and directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to Ogah.
The judge had said that since Ikpeazu’s appeal had been registered at the Court of Appeal, there was no need for the High Court to entertain any application. He, therefore, dismissed Ikpeazu’s application and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he described as abuse of court process.
Justice Abang, however, reaffirmed the sacking of Ikpeazu as governor over the alleged tax evasion.
Ogah had sued Ikpeazu, alleging that the tax certificates he submitted were not valid. Justice Abang agreed and, therefore, ruled that Ikpeazu was not qualified to have contested as governor. He directed that Ogah, who came second in the PDP primaries held in December 2014, should be given certificate of return and sworn in immediately. INEC had complied and issued Ogah certificate of return.
Ikpeazu had obtained a court injunction at the Abia State High Court, Osisioma in Aba, restraining the state’s Chief Judge from swearing in Ogah.
Reacting to Justice Abang’s reaffirmation of Ikpeazu’s sack, a non-governmental organisation, Abia Youths Vanguard, said since the court could not grant stay of execution, Ogah should be sworn in as governor.
According to Chukwu Nkama, president of the group, the coast has been cleared for Ogah to become governor. He said the Abia Chief Judge does not have any inhibition not to swear in Ogah.
When reminded about an injunction restraining the CJ from doing so, he said the order should not be binding since a court of coordinate jurisdiction issued it. He also said Justice Abang had faulted Ikpeazu on the court’s order.
“Justice Abang faulted Ikpeazu’s action in obtaining an injunction. That’s one of the reasons he refused to grant the stay of execution, as he said that Ikpeazu had already taken action to stall the judgment and, therefore, does not deserve respite. On that score, nothing stops Ogah from assuming office as governor.”
Also, another group, Renaissance Alliance expressed optimism that Ogah would assume office as governor.
According to the group’s leader, Charles Ndukwe, Ikpeazu cannot thwart a court’s decision. He said the Abuja court was clear that Ikpeazu remained sacked, which means that Ogah should take over.
He said since injunction could only last for 21 days, “Ogah will surely take what belongs to him.”
Ndukwe said 21 days will elapse within the month, and, therefore “Ikpeazu will have no choice than to hand over, pending the determination of the case.”
He said if there was any doubt about Justice Abang’s judgment, his ruling again on Friday emphasised that “Ikpeazu is no longer governor, while Ogah is the governor-elect, who should be sworn in.”