There seems to be no end to the legal and political logjam created in Abia State as a result of the issuance of certificate of return to Samson Ogah, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The state government last night insisted that the commission erred in view of the fact that a notice of appeal and stay of execution filed by the governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, against a judgment of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, removing him from office, had been served on INEC.
The INEC’s National Commissioner (South East), Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, on Thursday issued a certificate of return to Ogah as governor, claiming it had not received any appeal against Monday’s court ruling which sacked Ikpeazu from office as Abia governor after being found guilty of tax offence.
Ogah came second in the December 2014 governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State.
But in a statement by Umeh Kalu, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, the Abia government contradicted the INEC’s claim, insisting that the notice of appeal and stay of order were duly served on the electoral body at its headquarters in Abuja and were acknowledged.
“It’s unfortunate that INEC said that it was not served. But the truth is that they were served. I have a proof to that. Saleh N. Ibrahim, Senior Clerical Officer at the Legal Services Department of the Commission’s Headquarters, Abuja, who stamped the Notice of Appeal and Injunction with the Commission’s official stamp by 12.50pm on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
“With the foregoing, it is now clear that the Commission had no reason or cause to proceed with their dangerous action of issuing a Certificate of Return to Dr. Uche Ogah when it was clearly in receipt of a Notice of Appeal and Stay of Execution expressly forbidding them from taking any further action on the Judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court pending the determination of the Appeal in the case.
“It is rather surprising that the Commission could lend itself to be used for an act capable of destabilizing a State in Nigeria with the attendant consequences for anarchy and breakdown of law and order”, Mr. Kalu said.
The INEC spokesman, Nick Dazang, however, said the governor erred by submitting the documents at the legal services department.
According to Mr. Dazang, all correspondents to INEC are usually channeled through the chairman’s office from where they get dispatched to their respective directorates or departments within the commission.