Court Upholds INEC’s Issuance of Certificate of Return to Uche Ogah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Friday upheld the certificate of return issued to Sampson Ogah as the Governor of Abia State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The judge also refused an application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for stay of execution of its judgment sacking the incumbent Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu.
He described as an abuse of court process, the two applications for stay of execution filed by the PDP, and proceeded to dismiss them.
The judge berated Ikpeazu for going before the Abia State High Court, Osisioma to obtain an ex-parte order, with the intention of frustrating the execution of the judgment of his court.
Justice Abang spoke while delivering two rulings on Friday in relation to the applications by Ikpeazu and his party, the PDP for the stay of execution of the court’s judgment in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1086/2014 and filed by a PDP member, Obasi Uba Eleagbara.
The proceedings lasted about seven and half hours, from 9am to 4:30pm.
The court had on June 27 gave two judgments sacking Ikpeazu on the ground that he was not qualified to contest the last PDP primary election in the state having made false representation about his tax status to INEC. The suits were the one by Eleagabara and Sampson Ogah.
When the case by Eleagbara was called, Ikpeazu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) told the court that he was not ready to argue the application for stay of execution filed on behalf of his client.
Olanipekun sought an adjournment on the ground that he was new in the case and had not studied the application.
But, lawyer to the plaintiff, Alex Iziyon objected to an adjournment and insisted that the application must be argued.
On sensing that the judge was inclined to hearing the application, Olanipekun applied to withdraw the application. Iziyon did not object to Olanipekun’s application to withdraw, but told the judge to dismiss the application.
Ruling, Justice Agang noted that having taken steps to circumvent the execution of the court’s judgment, the court could no longer indulge. Him.
“Dr. Ikpeazu slapped the court in the face; went to a different court that is of coordinate jurisdiction and obtained another ex parte order that has the effect of neutralising the order of this court.
“He slapped the court in the face, he cannot expect the court to grant him an indulgence. I so hold.
“You cannot flout an order of court and expect the court to listen to you and grant you a discretionary indulgence. It is a serious matter to slap a court,” the judge said.
While dismissing the applications for stay of execution by the PDP, Justice Abang he the party’s decision to file two application at the same time was an abuse of court process.
He said: “The judgment of this court was given in favour of Dr. Sampson Ogah. One of the orders directed the PDP to forward the names of the person with the second highest votes at the PDP primary, Okezie Ikpeazu having been disqualified from contesting the primary, to INEC as the party’s candidate for the election.
“The order made against Ikpeazu was rightly made. It subsists until it is set aside on appeal.
“There is no issue of stay of execution. The judgment having been enforced by INEC, there is nothing to stay.
“The judgment has been executed, certificate of return has been issued in favour of Ogah as Governor of Abia State.
“There is no evidence that the motion for stay was served on INEC before it issued the certificate of return. Therefore, INEC lawfully issued the certificate of return to Ogah, which was issued in compliance with the orders of the court,” Justice Abang said.
The judge awarded N40,000 cost against PDP to be paid to Ogah before it could take any further steps in the case.
Earlier in relation to the case by Ogah, the judge elected to suspend further proceedings on the application for stay of the judgement in the case filed by Ikpeazu.
The judge said his decision to stay further action in the case pending appeal, was informed by the concession by Iziyon that the appeal filed against the judgment had been entered at the Court of Appeal and that records of appeal had been complied.
The judge said he would have proceeded to hear the applications pending before his court, including the one by the Ogah, which sought to set aside the order made the Osisioma High Court, but for the concession of Iziyon that the appeal having been entered, the trial court should stay all actions.
Justice Abang, who drew a distinction between when a trial court could or could not stay proceedings because appeal had been entered at the Court of Appeal, said where it was an appeal against a final judgment, the trial court has the jurisdiction to hear an application for stay of execution.
He relied on the provision of Order 7 Rule 3 and 4 of the Court of Appeal Rules to hold that a trial court could only stay proceedings where an appeal is entered at the Appeal Court if such an appeal was on an interlocutory decision.
Justice Abang further held that where the decision appealed against was a final judgment of the trial court, such a court has the jurisdiction to first determine an application for stay of execution before such application is filed at the appellate court where the trial court refuses it.