Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) stated that Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu is no longer the Governor of Abia State in the eyes of the Law.
This Senior Advocate of Nigeria stated this while lending his voice to the controversy trailing the sack of governor Ikpeazu by a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Okon Abang, in his judgment of Monday, June 27, 2016 in a suit filed by Uche Ogah, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member held that Ikpeazu does not possess the requisite qualifications to contest the election as governor, in that he did not furnish credible evidence of payment of tax, to the Abia State Government.
The judge ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare Ogah who came second in the PDP primary, as the elected candidate.
In the suit, Ogah had contended that Ikpeazu evaded tax prior to his election and as such was not qualified to hold elective office.
Agbakoba said by Law Ikpeazu has been removed by the court and he is no longer the governor of Abia State.
“The court has removed him as governor but the problem is that there’s a transition period. But the court has removed him as governor and there’s a new governor-elect who is yet to be sworn-in. and that is why I think there’s a major political vacuum. Clearly, the Ikpeazu is no longer the governor by Law.
“I don’t know the grounds which the other order from Abia State was obtained by one of the parties. But I do know that a judgment was given and a certificate of return was issued by INEC in Abuja. If they want to stay that order they have to go to the very court that passed the judgment.
“It is procedurally wrong towant to arrest that judgment us- ing another court of coordinate jurisdiction. The order of the Federal High Court in Abuja should be obeyed.
“A Notice of Appeal is clearly not a Stay and INEC has broken no Law in issuing Certificate of Return to Ogah. But they should have relied on the prudential principle by cautioning themselves, giving the fact that they have received a Notice of Appeal, which in itself, does not constitute a stay of execution of the order of the court. However INEC has broken no law by issuing the certificate of return to Ogah,”Agbakoba said.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana also stated that INEC had done the right thing by obeying the order of the Federal High Court.
“Federal High Court ordered that Uche Ogah be issued with Certificate of Return and should be sworn in as governor of Abia State. INEC complied with the order. The order exparte issued by a judge in Abia State High Court is illegal and contemptuous. The Abia State High Court cannot sit on appeal over the order of the Federal High Court as it is a court of concurrent jurisdiction,” Falana stated.
In his reaction, the President of Nigeria Bar Association, Austin Aleghe, stated that while he was not fully briefed on the issue, the position of the law is that when a stay of execution and a notice of appeal has been filed, it is incumbent on all parties to stay action to avoid a situation where one’s interest will be rendered nugatory.
He however, stated that he cannot say for certainty that a stay of execution was filed and INEC put on notice.
Yesterday, INEC confirmed that it received notice of appeal but was not accompanied by stay of execution from Ikpeazu’s lawyers and that a notice of appeal did not amount to stay of execution.