For Ogah, the Real Trial Begins…

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Personality Focus
The recent arrest of Mr. Uche Ogah, President of Masters Energy Oil and Gas by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over allegation of forgery, introduces an entirely new dimension to the travails of a man seeking to be Abia State governor in a circumstance that is presently undoing the stability of the state, writes Shola Oyeyipo
 
Politics comes with lots of intrigues but one of the most important implications of participating in politics, particularly for those competing at higher echelons is that they are subjects of sometimes undue publicity and it had better been positive because negative stories spread faster and the public, not just the media, feasts quickly on them.
The news quickly went viral when operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Monday morning picked up the President of Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Uche Ogah, on the premise of a Lagos State Magistrates’ Court in Tinubu, Lagos Island, after he got a reprieve from police, who dropped the case against him.
Ogah‎ has remained a major challenger of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s emergence as the governor of Abia State‎. He took the governor to court over alleged presentation of fake tax document to the party, claiming that as a result of that he was not eligible to stand as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and as such, Ogah was declared winner of the last governorship election in Abia State by Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on June 27.
But in what came as compliance with the principles of equity and justice and the doctrine of ‘he who comes to equity must come with a clean hand’, Ogah himself was arraigned on June 16 by the police for alleged forgery, which would translate into fraud if found guilty.
Therefore, the Abia State political power play took a rather new dimension that Monday when the police withdrew the charges against Ogah and he was arrested as soon as he stepped out of the courtroom.
The police prosecutor, Henry Obiazi, told the presiding magistrate, Mrs. Kikelomo Ayeye, that he had the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to withdraw the charges against Ogah and his co-defendants.                                      
“I am instructed by the IGP to withdraw this case, as the issue is pending with the SFU,” Obiazi said and the charges were consequently struck out by the court.
But that was not enough to sway the EFCC operatives, who drove him away in their van because according to a source at the EFCC, the anti-graft agency had received a petition from the complainant in the case against Ogah and so, he was arrested to be interrogated.
Ogah, his company, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited and an ex-employee of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Deji Somoye are defendants in the charge that the police withdrew. They were accused of conspiring with some persons still at large to forge a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited and Mut-Hass Petroleum Limited sometime in March 2011, to forge the signature of one Mrs. Bridget Adeosun.
Part of the charge read: “‎That you, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, Uche Ogah, and others at large, on the same date, time, place and in the aforementioned magisterial district, did forge the signature of one Mrs. Bridget Adeosun and a document known as MoU between Mut-Hass Petroleum Limited and Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, with an intent that it may be in any way used or acted upon as genuine.
“That you, Deji Somoye, United Bank for Africa and others still at large, sometime in August 2011, at UBA regional office, Palmgrove, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did knowing that Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited designed to commit an offence, failed to use all reasonable means to prevent the commission or the completion of the crime.”
As expected, the issue has brought up various angles to the debate ‎among the supporters of Governor Ikpeazu and Ogah, who see the entire legal debacle between the two from different perspectives. 
For instance, in the governor’s camp, Ogah’s eventual arrest by the EFCC simply confirmed two things. First, that it is correct that he has a case to answer with regards to the allegation of forgery and that he was only getting off the hook with police assistance. 
Two, that the political crisis he had stoked in Abia over the governorship impasse, particularly as Governor Ikpeazu, who has been credited as working to improve the fortunes of the state, has been considerably affected by protracted litigation, so much that some say the overall objective was to secure immunity against prosecution against Ogah, knowing full well that he might be unable to wriggle out of the forgery case. 
That much did a former Commissioner for Information in Abia State and Executive Director-General of Abia Interest Group, Eze Chikamnayo, allude to in a no-holds-barred interview with THISDAY, where he said:‎ “Uche Ogah has nothing to uncover, rather, God is using this opportunity to uncover Uche Ogah for the people of Abia – for us to see the real Uche Ogah because the man is full of pretences.”
He alleged, amongst other things, that Ogah was seeking immunity to shield him from prosecution, stating that “Uche Ogah is known generally as a young man, who just came out of school, entered into the oil business and boom, money everywhere. And that money, when it comes like that – like magic – it is suspect. 
“But then in Nigeria, we know these people who make money in that manner – how they made their money. It is part of what President Buhari is fighting now – the culture of graft, corruption, impunity – the get-rich-quick syndrome. 
“Uche Ogah, either fortunately or unfortunately for him, was around within the period individuals got all manners of channels through which to make money quickly.”
‎On the pending forgery case against Ogah, Chikamnayo‎ said “The truth is that, in one of his business deals, he actually had issues bordering on alleged forgery of documents; alleged opening of fraudulent bank account; alleged diversion of money that was meant for different individuals and we are saying, if Uche Ogah couldn’t do justice to one woman, whom he did transaction with, how can he do justice to four million Abians?
“We are not interested in uncovering him, but God is interested in unveiling him for Abians to see that there is danger beyond the smokescreen; beyond the façade.”
Dismissing the story that Ogah bought the contract, he argued that “If he purchased the contract in question, let him come forward and show the original documents of the contracts he has. If I purchased a contract, as I am handing over the money to you, I am receiving the original document, whether it is a land that you are buying, you want to see the original Certificate of Occupancy.
“Truth is that he short-changed an innocent poor woman, who got a contract and approached him for some logistic support that has to do with tank farms and all. The woman was negotiating for a loan at Eco Bank, when Ogah moved over to UBA and opened an account fraudulently and forged the woman’s signature without the woman’s knowledge and transacted this business for years on that same account, changing the official address of that company – all done without the woman’s consent.”
But in a sharp reaction to Chikamnayo, the National Coordinator, Voice of the Common, Don Samuel Uchechukwu, maintained that all the information being propagated about the oil mogul-turned politician seeking to unseat Governor Ikpeazu ‎are malicious and politically motivated.
“He (Chikamnayo‎) is ignorant of what is going on. I don’t think he understood what was going on. The woman he mentioned, if he can bring the woman to confront Uche Ogah or take her to the media to say Ogah defrauded her, we will see. Without asking Uche Ogah, I know such thing never happened. 
“So, Chikanmayo or whatever they call him should go and finish his law school. You know he is not yet a lawyer until he is called to the bar. These are the kinds of people you find around Ikpeazu – people who will go around with false information”, Uchechukwu stated in defence of Ogah.
It is on the basis of the positions expressed by the opposing sides that those sitting on the fence are hoping that justice and the rule of law would be vindicated if the matter is thoroughly prosecuted without panning to any of the interests in the case. But it is worthy of note that people from in and outside Abia are following the issue with keen interest to see where the pendulum will eventually swing in pursuit of justice, equity and fairness.