POPULAR Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo, on Wednesday, described as illegal, the continuous stay of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu in office as the governor of Abia State, after a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had nullified his nomination as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Keyamo explained that the illegality was more pronounced since the court had also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Dr Sampson Ogah, who scored the second highest number of votes in the primaries that produced Dr Ikpeazu as governorship candidate.
According to him, a thorough scrutiny of the judgment of the court revealed that, contrary to widespread opinion that Ogah’s case was that Ikpeazu presented forged tax papers to INEC, his case was simply that Ikpeazu apparently rushed to pay all his backlog of taxes just before the elections, yet he swore to a false affidavit and supplied a false information to INEC that he paid his taxes as at when due.
“I have carefully listened to various arguments regarding the immediate issuance of certificate of return to Dr Ogah by INEC, in strict compliance with the judgment of the court.
“Contrary to opinions expressed in certain quarters, there is no judicial decision or statutory provision preventing INEC from complying immediately with the orders of the Federal High Court.
“The provision of Section 143(1) of the Electoral Act, Part VIII that gives Dr Ikpeazu (or any other office holder for that matter) 21 days within which to file an appeal against an adverse judgment (and to remain in office until the appeal is determined) applies only to post-election matters before election tribunals or the Court of Appeal and not pre-election matters as in this case,” Keyamo stated.
He explained further that INEC, in the circumstance, acted legally and correctly by instantly issuing a certificate of return to Ogah, adding that it would have been permissible for Ikpeazu to continue staying in office as governor of Abia State, pending the outcome of the appeal, despite the judgment of the Federal High Court (and the nullification of his Certificate of Return) if Ogah had not been issued a certificate of return instantly.
He further stated that the scenario being played out was that of a person, without any document entitling him to that office, occupying the office of governor of Abia State, whilst a person who has both a valid court judgment and a valid certificate of return was unable to assume office as governor of the state.