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Court refuses to set aside judgment sacking Ikpeazu as Abia gov

Abia State governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, addressing the crowd of supporters who trooped out in solidarity for him at the Government House, Umuahia, on Monday.

Justice of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Okon Abang, says he will not set aside his previous order removing Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia State.

Ikpeazu, through Wole Olanipekun, had filed an application asking the court to vacate the order.

But in a ruling on Monday, Abang said he would not set aside the order, but that he would hear other applications on the matter on Thursday.

On June 27, the judge ruled that Ikpeazu was not qualified to hold office as Abia governor, because he had filed a fake tax clearance before his election in 2015.

He had given the judgment in a suit filed by Uche Ogah, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, against Ikpeazu.

In the suit, Ogah contended that the governor filed a forged tax certificate prior to his election, and as such, he was not qualified to hold an elective office.

The judge upheld the argument of Ogah, ordering the removal of Ikpeazu.

Abang also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to Ogah, who was first runner-up in the PDP Abia governorship primaries as governor of the state.

Meanwhile, INEC, on Monday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja, that the Certificate of Return it issued to Uche Ogah, on June 28 as governor-elect of Abia State, was in obedience to its judgment delivered on June 27.

INEC explained that the Certificate of Return had already been  issued on Ogah before it received  the processes of the notice of appeal against the judgment and a motion for stay of execution of the judgment by Governor Ikpeazu.

The electoral body made the clarification through its lawyer, Mr Alhassan Umar, when a motion seeking a stay of the execution of the judgment came up for hearing on Monday before Justice Abang, who had delivered the verdict on June 27.

INEC  was reacting to an application by Ikpeazu’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun for adjournment of the hearing of his client’s motion till Thursday.

The commission, however, argued through its counsel, Umar, that the notice of appeal and the motion for stay of execution of the judgment did not operate as a stay of execution of a court’s judgment in a pre-election case.

INEC’s counsel argued that the law would have expressly stated, so if it intends to make a notice of appeal to operate as a stay of execution in a pre-election case.

Umar explained that in the case of election petition, a notice of appeal operated as a stay of execution of a judgment delivered by an election petition tribunal in an election petition because section 143 (1) of the Electoral Act expressly provided for that.

“My lord ordered the third defendant to issue certificate of return forthwith and upon service of the order, my lord, on June 28, 2016, the 3rd defendant issued a certificate of return accordingly.

“The Certificate of  Return was issued before we were served with the motion on June 28. We had issued the certificate upon being served with the court order.

“But the actual presentation of the certificate was on June 30, but we had complied with the order of my lord.”

Justice Abang had, in his judgment on June 27, ordered Governor Ikpeazu to vacate his office for allegedly disclosing false information in relation to his tax clearance details to INEC in his form, nominating him as the candidate of the PDP for the last year’s governorship election in the state.