Human rights lawyer, Ebun-OIu Adegboruwa tells BAYO AKINLOYE that the action of the Independent National Electoral Commission of issuing Certificate of Return to Uchechukwu Ogah is illegal and can cause chaos
Despite a stay of execution filed by Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State against Justice Okezie Abang’s ruling, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday issued a Certificate of Return to Sampson Ogah, a runner-up to Ikpeazu in the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship primary in the state. What is your view on this?
There is a grand conspiracy laced with a hidden agenda by the ruling All Progressives Congress to entrench a one-party state in Nigeria and this is with the consent of the President (Muhammadu Buhari) whose body language has reflected a preference for dictatorship. The president is fighting the National Assembly and the judiciary; virtually, all the two organs of government are to be silenced and muzzled. In law, once Governor Ikezie Ikpeazu has filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, followed with a stay of execution of the judgment (handed down by Justice Abang) no authority in Nigeria is entitled to enforce that judgment until that application has been decided.
And this is a principle of law that the president himself benefitted from recently. In the case that was challenging his eligibility to contest as president because he did not have WAEC (West African Examination Council) certificate. The president told his lawyer to file a preliminary objection but Justice Adeniyi Ademola dismissed that objection and the president recruited 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria to file an appeal against that ruling of the court. While they filed that appeal, they also applied for stay of proceedings before the High Court and immediately the judge of the High Court suspended his proceedings to allow the president to exercise his right of appeal. Therefore, if it is possible for the president to benefit from the rule of law, if it is possible for the president to exercise his right to appeal, why would the (federal) government through INEC not allow Ikpeazu to exercise the same right to appeal?
Could it be that the court papers were not served on INEC and Ogah?
The papers were served. I can confirm that to you that they (INEC and Ogah) had been served.
But why would INEC do what it ought not to do by issuing a Certificate of Return to Ogah?
Most of the people in INEC are appointees of the president. They are his in-laws, relatives and adoptive children – daughters and sons. Some of them are alleged to be card-carrying members of the ruling APC. Thus, INEC as we have it now is not an independent entity. The proper name of INEC is ‘Inconclusive National Electoral Commission.’ That is the name we have given to INEC. Under Buhari, no election conducted by INEC has ever been conclusive – right from Kogi State to Bayelsa and Rivers all the elections have never been conclusive. The INEC is doing the bidding of the president, who has a hidden agenda to impose a one-party state on Nigeria. Therefore, I am calling on all Nigerians so that we do not descend into a state of anarchy. The governor of Abia State is still the governor of the state until he has exercised his right to appeal up to the Supreme Court. There is no reason to force him out of office since he has decided to appeal against the judgment.
Are you saying what INEC did is illegal?
It is an affront against the rule of law. It is a challenge against the integrity of the court system. It is a total invitation to anarchy because the sitting governor will be resisting (any unlawful attempt to unseat him) while Ogah will be insisting that he should be sworn in. and the caveat we have here is that the Chief Judge of Abia State will not go ahead against the application of stay of execution not to swear in Ogah; that is the caveat. I do not think the chief judge will do. I am therefore calling on the chief judge to refuse to be drawn into this impunity. The certificate purportedly issued to Ogah is illegal and cannot stand in law. Ogah cannot be sworn in based on that certificate while there is an appeal against the judgment.
It was reported that the judge had absconded?
Why would he not abscond? He does not need to abscond; once they served him with a notice of appeal and the motion for stay of execution, nobody can force the chief judge to swear in Ogah. But I think this (situation) portends grave danger for our nation, especially as the president is revealing day by day that he is not a democrat. He still wants to be ruling us as he did during his 1984 military junta. We are in a democracy and we appeal to the president to follow the rule of law.
But why are you so convinced this development is an APC-inspired conspiracy when Ogah is a PDP member?
There is a plot, which we have uncovered, to swear in Ogah and immediately get him to defect to the APC. Remember that there is a current dispute of factionalisation in the PDP involving Modu Sheriff on the one hand, and Ahmed Makarfi on the other. So, the grand plan is to swear in Ogah and get him to defect to the APC using the current factionalisation in the PDP as a reason for that defection. Then, effectively, the APC will then take over Abia State and eventually get all the members of the Abia House of Assembly to also defect to the ruling APC. That is the grand plan.
Is the country now faced with a plan of the APC to enforce a one-party state?
I believe that is their agenda. The current anti-corruption war is targeted at 2019; it is meant to put a tag on those who are perceived to be likely opponents in the future elections and then put a corruption tag on them; that is why you see that the (anti-corruption) war has no end. Every day new facts will emerge until 2019 and give a dog bad name and hang it, to the extent that there will be nobody who will be credible enough to stand in opposition against all the candidates of the APC.
Is anything the lawmakers both at the state and federal levels can do about this situation?
I think the matter at hand now is purely for the court. I think that the court that gave the judgment has a duty to pronounce on the application for stay of execution whether he will grant it or he will refuse it. This confusion can only be cleared by the same court that granted the judgment. Once an appeal has been filed and a motion of execution has been filed before a court, that court has to determine it – whether to grant it or to refuse it. As things stand now under the constitution, the Abia State House of Assembly has no role to play because they are not the ones that initiated the removal of the governor.
Does the attorney-general of the federation have a role to play in this matter?
The attorney-general of the federation also as the minister of justice has a duty to direct INEC not to issue a certificate of return once appeal has been filed and motion for stay of execution has been filed. The attorney-general is the chief law officer of this nation but I regret to say that this current attorney-general with all due respect to him has been playing the role of the APC’s legal adviser –which shouldn’t have been so.