In the Ikpeazu case, Ogah declined to complete the process of the primary election. The primary election process is deemed complete when the candidates sign to authenticate the result of the primary election. Ogah decline and refused to authenticate that process by refusing to append his signature to the final result sheet which would have entitled him to seek any remedy, albeit, being appointed by a court as governor. How then is it possible that Ogah could become a beneficiary of a process he did not endorse?
Kalu Uka Kalu
Abia state was hit by a curious blow on Monday, June 27. It was one from the Federal High Court in Abuja aimed at terminating the life of the wave-making Okezie Ikpeazu administration, which has, in less than 15 months, given Abia people a cause to be counted among the progressives of Nigeria, which include an overall best in the latest WASC exams.
For those who do not know yet, the case was instituted by Uche Ogah. Ogah contested the PDP primary election alongside several others, against Okezie Ikpeazu. He placed second with a little above 100 delegate votes against more than 400 for Ikpeazu. On that ground alone, there was a clear statement of choice from delegated elected by Abia PDP to choose a governorship candidate from the pack. While most of the others who contested the primary election have teamed up with Ikpeazu to move on with his vision for Abia and pursue a development that is for the benefit of posterity, evidence of which is already been felt, Ogah, believing in the weight of his pocket, had sought to confuse, and corrupt, the system to his advantage.
During the primaries, Ogah, who is President of Masters Energy and Gas, acted very much to show how heavy his pockets are. He boasted severally that with his financial muscle, he would easily take over Abia state. Many delegates saw his boasts as mere political rantings. But the pronouncements of Justice Okon Abang, seem to have given life to the boasts. This is where Abia indigenes, and friends, must show concern. This is because the leadership of God’s Own state ought not, and must not be, for the highest bidder, especially in the event where such bidder is already facing trial for fraud.
Recently, precisely on, or about June 16, Ogah was arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court in Lagos over alleged fraud involving him and some officials of the UBA. He appeared before Magistrate Kikelomo Ayeye and is being prosecuted by an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Henry Obiazi. Obiazi had also informed the court that the offences contravened sections 363 (3)(u), 408 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
The charge read: “That you, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, Uche Ogah, and others at large sometime in March 2011 at Ikeja, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did conspire among yourselves to wit: forgery.
“That you, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, Uche Ogah, and others at large, on the same date, time, place and in the aforementioned magisterial district, did forge the signature of one Mrs. Bridget Adeosun and a document known as MoU between Mut-Hass Petroleum Limited and Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, with an intent that it may be in any way used or acted upon as genuine.
“That you, Deji Somoye, United Bank for Africa and others still at large, sometime in August 2011, at UBA regional office, Palmgrove, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did knowing that Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited design to commit an offence, failed to use all reasonable means to prevent the commission or the completion of the crime.”
Details of the matter was that Ogah conspired with some persons, said to be staff of UBA, to defraud a business associate, a woman, via signature forgery on a memorandum of understanding.
He is supposed to return to court on August 4 for the commencement of trial. At the moment, Ogah is out on bail. This does not suggest that he is guilty of the offense of forgery. But it does suggest that he is already standing trial which is of a criminal nature. This raises concern if Ogah is fit and proper person to be appointed by a court as governor of Abia state.
Reason is this: Ikpeazu has proven that change is possible in Abia state. He has also mapped out the platform for Abia to join the list of first tier states pushing on progressively into the next decade. He has pursued vigorously the promotion of Made-In-Aba goods which seek to open the floodgate of investment into Abia and export of manufactured goods from the state. Ikpeazu has also pursued the development of agriculture in line with the diversification policy of the present federal government. His vision for the state are simply ambitious. He has gradually re-united the state after the fractions of the governorship election.
With Ikpeazu, Abia is now on a roll such that distractions and setbacks will remain a disincentive to Abia development.
This however, is not to suggest that the law ought not to take its course. It should. And that is why many Abia people believe, like late MKO Abiola, that it is not proper to shave a man’s head in his absence. That is not legally acceptable. For instance, the matter in question is a pre-election matter in which the tax certificate issuing authority ought to have been invited to authenticate, or deny, the documents alleged to have been forged. There is no evidence that those who issued Ikpeazu with the documents which are claimed to have been forged, ever denied doing so. In fact, they had testified, via an affidavit sworn to be the Commissioner for Oaths, that they indeed issued the tax receipts. If therefore they were forged, then, those who swore to have issued them ought to be facing trial for perjury. Isn’t that so?.
Abia people don’t ever remember their governor examined and cross examined in court, in the process of trial over the documents in question. There is also no evidence before the defence legal team that a forensic examination of the documents was ever carried out. These raises valid questions about how the trial judge arrived at his decision because by the virtue of provisions of Section 308 of the constitution, Gov. Ikpeazu, could not even be investigated. If the allegation was investigated while he sat in office as governor, that, in itself, would be an infraction of his legal privileges as a governor which renders the entire trial process null and void.
The only legal ground upon which Gov. Ikpeazu could be removed from office, as it is now, is through any of the means prescribed by the constitution as by the pronouncements of the courts, especially the recent pronouncements from Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal, it is the political party which determines who its candidate is. “It is the political party, through the instrumentality of its candidate, that runs for election”, the tribunal had said. This suggests that Ogah did not run for election as governor of Abia state. Ikpeazu did. Therefore, the court would be in default to make the sort of order it made. Besides, the Kogi elections tribunal also held that Faleke could not legally, and reasonably, be challenging an election which he did not participate in when it held that no right can accrue from an inconclusive process.
In the Ikpeazu case, Ogah declined to complete the process of the primary election. The primary election process is deemed complete when the candidates sign to authenticate the result of the primary election. Ogah decline and refused to authenticate that process by refusing to append his signature to the final result sheet which would have entitled him to seek any remedy, albeit, being appointed by a court as governor. How then is it possible that Ogah could become a beneficiary of a process he did not endorse? By refusing, declining or abstaining from appending his signature to authenticate the result of the primary election in which he came a distant second, Ogah waived his right to any remedy that could lead to his being appointed governor of Abia state by a single judge. That amounts to judicial tyranny and need not be allowed.
This position is the crux of the matter in another legal challenge by Barr. F.N. Nwosu, who also contested the primary election. He is currently in court challenging the proprietary of Uche Ogah’s claims on the grounds that having waived his privilege and right to sign the primary result sheet, he automatically waives his rights to the remedies he seeks. The matter is still at the Federal High Court in Owerri and it is the belief of PDP in Abia state that the outcome of that matter would put an end to whatever claims Ogah lays to the governorship of the state.
So, whatever celebrations that may have hit the Ogah camp, may just be masturbatory, as evidence supplied by Nwosu to the court showed that Ogah declined to assert his rights by refusing to sign the result sheet. He therefore is not entitled to any remedy accruing from a process that he refused to complete.
The remedy however, is that this matter will reach the Supreme Court. It will help in the development of the country’s laws and electoral systems. But it needs to be proved that someone who was appointed to work in a state civil service system, could not pay tax when in act, taxes of those appointed to serve in government are deducted from source. This would be the scenario; unless Nigerians are now being told by this development, that, those who are appointed into the public service, either at the state or federal level, have a different tax schedule which is not deducted from their salaries.
However, this attempt at legal tyranny has caused tension in Abia state and opened up old wounds about the Old Bende and Ngwa dichotomy in Abia politics. Ikpeazu has worked very hard to mend the broken links and his election was seen as a positive action to heal old wounds and put aside past animosities. But with Ogah’s action, tension returned to the state and would remain until the matter is finally disposed at the appellate courts.
For a fact, Ikpeazu’s governorship is the first from Abia south, appointed or elected, since the creation of Abia state. It was therefore seen as a healing balm. Frustrating it will re-ignite crisis in Abia state and erode whatever foundations that has so far been laid for the overall development of the state. Abia south youths are not taking the decision lightly.
Like I said earlier, this matter will generate more interest in helping to develop our laws. This will be healthy in helping to rein in desperate politicians who act in ways to suggest that the judiciary could succumb to the weight of money in scuttling the development aspirations and visions of a people. Let us wait to see what the Court of Appeal says. Recall that after Rotimi Amaechi was imposed on River state as governor, by the court after it ousted Celestine Omehia, several legal scholars and jurists, later, denounced the judgement as wrong and improper. Justice Abang’s decision may go the same way.
*Kalu Writes From Umuahia