The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued a certificate of return to Uche Ogah as the new governor of Abia state.
Ogah — the candidate who placed second at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Abia state governorship primary in 2015 — suddenly finds himself on the brink of becoming governor, following Monday’s judgement of a federal high court sitting in Abuja that Okezie Ikpeazu, the party’s candidate and winner of the governorship election, was not qualified to hold the office.
Justice Okon Abang, giving judgment on a suit filed by Ogah, agreed with the plaintiff that Ikpeazu evaded tax prior to his election, and as such was not qualified to hold an elective office.
He ordered the removal of Ikpeazu and also ordered Abang also ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return it issued to Ikpeazu, and re-award it to Ogah, who had received 103 votes to Ikpeazu’s 487 at the primary election.
Speaking while complying with the order on Thursday, Lawrence Nwuruku, the INEC national commissioner in charge of the south-east, said it was his duty to honour the court order, and INEC would do the same should the court order a reversal.
“The situation is that we are simply obeying the court order. The court said that we should issue him Certificate of Return with immediate effect, and that is what we have done,” he said.
“If the court tomorrow issues another order, we would obey the same. If court says we should issue the same certificate to another person, we will.
“I was the person who gave the Certificate of Return to Gov. Ikpeazu as he was declared winner. Now, the court has said otherwise. One thing we know is that we are not above the law and we cannot disobey the laws of the land.”
Justice Abang had ruled that on the account of fake tax returns during the primaries, Mr Ikpeazu, ab initio was never qualified to run in the PDP primaries as a governorship candidate. He consequently ordered the Chief Judge of the state to swear in Uche Ogah as the substantive Governor of Abia State.
This is the latest in a series of legal battles Ikpeazu has faced.
His election was previously challenged by Alex Otti, candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the April 2015 governorship election.
Although, an election petition tribunal upheld his election, the appeal sacked him. However, the supreme court returned him as governor.
Ikpeazu, who has since appealed against the order of the court, earlier urged his supporters not to panic because he “remains the governor of the state according to law”.