Ikpeazu’s Continuous Stay in Office is Illegal, Says Keyamo

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Davidson Iriekpen

Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has said the continuous stay in office of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State despite being sacked by a Federal High Court in Abuja was an aberration.
Keyamo said Ikpeazu ceased to be governor the day Justice Okon Abang delivered the judgment sacking him from office.

In a press statement yesterday, the Lagos-based lawyer said as against the insinuation that the benefactor of the judgment, Dr. Sampson Ogah, challenged the governor for submitting forged document to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the real content of the case was that Ikpeazu lied under oath.

He said the provision of Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, Part VIII which gives Ikpeazu or any other office holder for that matter 21 days within which to file an appeal against an adverse judgment and to remain in office until the appeal is determined applies only to post-election matters before election tribunals or the Court of Appeal and not pre-election matters as in this case.

Keyamo maintained that INEC acted legally and correctly by instantly issuing a certificate of return to Ogah, stating that 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 court if Ogah had not been issued a certificate of return instantly.

“On Monday, June 27, 2016 the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja nullified the nomination of Ikpeazu as the candidate of the PDP for the 2015 gubernatorial election of Abia State and also his subsequent election as Governor of Abia State. The court ordered the INEC to issue a certificate of return to Ogah who scored the second highest number of votes in the primaries that produced Ikpeazu.

“A thorough scrutiny of the judgment of the court will reveal that, contrary to widespread opinion that Ogah’s case was that Ikpeazu presented forged tax papers to INEC, his case was simply that Ikpeazu apparently rushed to pay all his backlog of taxes just before the elections, yet he swore to a false affidavit and supplied a false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission that he paid his taxes AS AT WHEN DUE. It was based on this false information that the court nullified his candidature.

“I have carefully listened to various arguments regarding the immediate issuance of a certificate of return to Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission in strict compliance with the judgment of the Court. Contrary to opinions expressed in certain quarters there is no judicial decision or statutory provision preventing the INEC from complying immediately with the Orders of the Federal High Court. The provision of Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, Part VIII that gives Ikpeazu (or any other office holder for that matter) 21 days within which to file an appeal against an adverse judgment (and to remain in office until the appeal is determined) applies only to post-election matters before election tribunals or the Court of Appeal and not pre-election matters as in this case.

“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 a 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 immediately, 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 a non-sequitor as the judgment of Justice Abang has already been complied with by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

“The scenario we have now is that of a person, without any document entitling him to that office, occupying the office of Governor of Abia State, whilst a person who has both a valid court judgment and a valid 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 Sttae and all his actions, orders and anything done in that capacity are null, void and of no effect.”

“Ogah should be sworn in immediately as Governor of Abia State pending the appeal lodged by Ikpeazu. That is the only way to go to enthrone legality in Abia State. The heavens will not fall.”