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Abia ‘Coup’: Who will punish the actors?

By Ebere Uzoukwa on 17/09/2016

Views: 1,815

There is always a punishment for masterminds of any foiled coup. In Nigeria, and precisely the military, there have been incidences of aborted or failed coups. The actors were indeed subjected to pay the supreme price, in line with the military tradition.

On June 30, 2016 a contrived coup – though not military but a civilian sort – was cleverly foiled by Abians. One Mr Uche Ogah from Uturu, alongside his accomplices, had nearly removed a democratically-elected Governor of Abia State, in the person of Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu. 
This was sequel to one of the most controversial judgments in the history of Nigerian judiciary, delivered by Justice Okon Abang of Abuja Federal High Court. Nigerians were shocked and perplexed that a judge could sack a democratically-elected governor on a flimsy allegation of ‘tax forgery’, to pave way for an intruder that neither campaigned nor contested the governorship election. On realising that the judgment will not survive the judicial scrutiny of the appeal court, Ogah and his cohorts hurriedly conscripted the South-East Commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Lawrence Nwuruku, leading the onslaught. After it was served with Notice of Appeal and Stay of Execution order, INEC threw caution to the wind and issued Uche Ogah with Certificate of Return.

The coup, however, was temporarily aborted when Governor Ikpeazu and his party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), quickly obtained a court injunction from Osisioma High Court, which tied the hands of the Abia Chief Judge and any other judicial officers from administering him with an oath of office. The injunction immediately changed the game for Ogah, as he was greeted with an unexpected scenario in Umuahia. With the Osisioma court injunction already dangling on the neck of the Police, DSS and others, the operatives had no option than to send Ogah and his rag-tag supporters back to Uturu. 
As the legal firework raged, Justice Abang exhibited wanton judicial illiteracy and ignorance. He clutched on to the case even after delivering his verdict. As the trial judge, Abang shockingly assumed the jurisdiction of an appellate court and was about ruling on the stay application filed by Ikpeazu’s lawyers to suspend his judgment. He even summoned the audacity to interpret the Appeal Court Rules meant for his superiors on the Bench. Sadly, Abang had committed these judicial infractions just to open a space for Ogah’s swearing-in. 

But Abang was defeated in his game when Ikpeazu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asked him to toe the path of the biblical Pontius Pilate and wash off his hands from the case, to enable the appellate court revisit his judgment. That common practice in law became too difficult for Abang, a high court judge, to adhere. It only took the concurrence of Ogah's counsel, Mr Alex Iziyon (SAN) who, perhaps, regained his consciousness and moved to protect their profession, and the judiciary, from further embarrassment.

After hearing from the parties, the Court of Appeal reserved judgment till Thursday August 18. The five-man panel of justices of the appellate court, led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju, didn’t waste time to void Abang’s controversial judgment. There is no gainsaying that the learned justices descended heavily on Justice Abang for churning out such judgment. The judgment was roundly faulted from different angles of the law. The judgment finally foiled and nailed the perpetrators of the June 30 civilian coup against Ikpeazu and Abia people. 

Now, the question arises: Who are the plotters? How could they be punished? The known principal actors are Justice Okon Abang, Amb Lawrence Nwuruku, Mr Uche Ogah and Mr Monday Onyekachi Ubani, a Lagos-based lawyer of Abia extraction.

In conclusion, the Court of Appeal judgment that reaffirmed the governorship of Okezie Ikpeazu should be seen as an eye-opener to those that seek to occupy elective offices through legal technicalities. Nigerian democracy has grown beyond legal pettiness, hence one must stand for election at all levels to occupy any elective position. The 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) is very clear on that. The issue of Ikpeazu's tax is also settled, hence Abia State Government never complained of not receiving his taxes as deducted by his employers. Therefore, the Supreme Court will finally put Ikpeazu’s detractors to shame.

•Uzoukwa, a media consultant and policy analyst, writes from Aba.

Source News Express

Posted 17/09/2016 8:17:31 PM





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