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The extended public holidays has stalled a scheduled hearing of an application seeking to stay execution of judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja that sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from office.
Trial Justice, Okon Abang had, Monday, slated today to also decide whether or not he has the powers to set aside the ex-parte order by a High Court in Abia State that stopped the Chief Judge of the state from swearing-in Mr. Uchechukwu Ogah as governor.
The judge said he would also decide on the merit of an oral application by Ikpeazu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, to annul the Certificate of Return the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, issued to Ogah.
Besides, the court was equally billed to determine whether the provisions of Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act applied to the judgment that was delivered against Ikpeazu on June 27.
The matter was fixed for today following an application by Ikpeazu’s lawyer, Olanipekun, SAN, who sought time to respond to a further affidavit Ogah filed against the motion to stay execution of the high court judgment.
Justice Abang had at the last adjourned date, dismissed as lacking in merit, an application that sought to void the enrolled order of the said judgment.
He maintained that all the orders contained in the judgment would subsist until they are set aside by the appellate court.
It will be recalled that the trial judge had in his judgment, ordered Ikpeazu to vacate his office, even as he directed INEC to immediately issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Ogah, who came second in the December 8, 2014, governorship primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Although INEC had since issued the Certificate of Return to Ogah, however, another court in Abia State restrained the Chief Judge from swearing him in.
Nevertheless, Ikpeazu, through his lawyers, re-approached the high court, praying it to set aside its order dated June 27 that led to the issuance of Certificate of Return to Ogah.
Olanipekun urged the court to take judicial notice that INEC issued Certificate of Return to Ogah on June 30, despite the fact that it was served with Ikpeazu’s notice of appeal and application for stay of execution at exactly 12:50am on June 28.
He contended that INEC acted wrongly by going ahead to issue the Certificate to Ogah, two days after it was served with the appeal processes. Olanipekun told the court that his client has filed “a comprehensive and elaborate notice of appeal,” and is “desirous of speedy and expeditious determination of the matter.”
However, Ogah, who was represented by five SANs led by Dr. Alex Iziyon, urged the court to refuse Ikpeazu’s prayer for stay of execution of the judgment.
Ogah told the court that Ikpeazu went and obtained a restraining order from another high court at Osisioma in Abia State that prevented him from being sworn-in.
He stressed that Ikpeazu got the restraining order from the high court in Abia when his motion for stay of execution was already pending before the court in Abuja.
Ogah accused Ikpeazu of resorting to “self help.” Responding, Olanipekun said it was Ogah and INEC that “deliberately and calculatedly resorted to self-help in order to frustrate both the motion for stay of execution and the pending appeal.”
He relied on Order 4, Rule 1(2) of the Judgment Enforcement Rules to argue that there should have been a timeline for enforcement of the June 27 verdict that removed his client.
Olanipekun insisted that INEC “illegally tampered with the rest of the case” by issuing Certificate of Return to Ogah despite the pending appeal against the judgment.
He also prayed the court to adjourn hearing on the motion for stay of execution until today to enable him to respond to a further affidavit that was filed by Ogah.
On its part, INEC lawyer, Mr. Alhassan Umar told the court that the commission had already issued Certificate of Return to Ogah as it was ordered to do, before it was served with Ikpeazu’s motion for stay.
Umar said though the Certificate was signed on June 28, it was however handed to Ogah two days later.
In his ruling, Justice Abang refused to set aside the order containing the judgment against Ikpeazu, even as he adjourned hearing on the motion for stay of execution till today.
Group supports Abuja court verdict, disagrees with Abia elders Meantime, hundreds of prominent persons from across Abia State, yesterday, threw their support behind the judgment of Justice Okon Abang, which dismissed Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in favour of Dr. Uche Ogah, and urged Abia people to remain calm as they expressed confidence that Ogah would be sworn-in as the Governor of the State.
Comprising of some political stakeholders, traditional prime ministers, titled chiefs, community leaders and village heads of all autonomous communities in Abia State, they dismissed the position of some stakeholders in the State who met in Abuja, Tuesday, saying that the people were not genuine Abia elders.