AGF Tells Abia Governorship Disputants to Await Courts’ Decision

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  • Says FG did not instruct INEC to issue certificate of returns to Ogah
  • CJ denies absconding to avoid swearing-in new governor

 By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has told disputants in the legal crisis rocking Abia State to await the decision of the various courts that are adjudicating on the matter revealing that none of the parties in the dispute has sought his opinion

Malami in a statement in Abuja yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Salihu Isah, said the matter was now before the courts and the best thing in the circumstances was to allow the judiciary to resolve the matter one way or the other.

The minister also said that neither he nor the federal government instructed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Dr Udechukwu Ogah.

The statement reads: “The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to the insinuations and crass lies being peddled and disseminated by a cross-section of Nigerians and the various media platforms that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation is behind the legal logjam over the Abia State governorship seat and wishes to clarify that those canvassing this position have no basis to do so.

“Of particular concern are (sic) those who have peddled ill-natured rumours with a view to misinform our discerning populace that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and by extension, the Federal Government of Nigeria that gave directives to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to Dr. Udechukwu Ogah declaring him Governor-Elect. He has definitely not taken any action either by spoken words or body language as far as this Abia governorship crisis is concerned.

“I wish to therefore, on behalf of my principal declare that these rumours are untrue and a figment of the imagination of those pushing these selfish, shameless and irredeemable lies into public space which only translate to partisanship on the side of its purveyors.

“As far as the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation is concerned, the constitutional powers for the legal opinion of his office have not been invoked on this issue. So far, nobody has approached him to proffer any legal opinion to it.

“As a strong believer in the rule of law, it is his belief that the law should naturally take its cause. The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation will not be dragged into this controversy and mind-games being played out by the various legal minds and spin doctors of both camps at this point.

“The parties involved should await the decision of the courts.

“In fact, we wish to by this statement advise those in the habit of dragging the highly esteemed Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice into knotty issue of this kind even when it is yet to take a position. They should desist from these unwarranted presumptions henceforth,” he warned.

A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja had last week nullified the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of the state on the ground that he presented forged tax papers to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party during the party’s primaries that returned him as its candidate for the 2015 gubernatorial election.

The court presided over by Justice Okon Abang subsequently declared Ogah as the rightful candidate of the party and ordered INEC to issue him a certificate of returns.

But Governor Ikpeazu blocked the inauguration of Ogah with a court order he obtained from a High Court in the state, restraining the latter from being sworn-in as the governor of the state pending the determination of a substantive suit brought before him by the embattled governor.

Meanwhile, the state judiciary on Sunday denied insinuations that Mr. Uche Ogah’s inauguration as governor of the state was scuttled last Thursday by the absence of the state Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzoamaka Uzokwe.

It said in a statement by its acting Chief Registrar, Mrs. Vicky Analaba that the insinuation was malicious and spurious. “For the avoidance of doubt, on Thursday, June 30, 2016, the Chief Judge was in her court room performing her lawful duties, including the delivery of four rulings on that date. The particulars of the rulings in question are: HU/35CM/2015 Francis Akor vs the State; HU/ICM/2016-Johnson Asiegbu vs. Commissioner of Police, HU/42CM/2016-Onyekachi Samuel vs. Commissioner of Police; HU/34CM/2016-Lucky Sampson vs. the State,” it said.

Adding that its claim was verifiable from lawyers who appeared in the Chief Judge’s court on that day, it dismissed the insinuations as the handiwork of “cowards and mischievous politicians.”

However, the state government has raised alarm on an alleged plot to kidnap judiciary officers in the state, accusing desperate politicians as the brain behind the plot.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Enyinnaya Appolos, in a statement on Sunday called on security agencies in the state to increase surveillance and protection services around all the judicial officers in the state.

“We wish to warn those involved in this plot to desist from their nefarious activities as the government will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law against them,” it said, adding: “We also call on Abians to be vigilant and report any suspicious movement around them to the security agencies.”

Reacting to the situation in the state, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has warned against “unbridled ambition” of some politicians which has plunged the state into crisis.

In a statement yesterday by its state Publicity Secretary, Chief Don Ubani, the ruling party also corroborated the allegation of plots to kidnap judicial officers in the state, saying that it was being hatched by “a certain desperate politician.”