In a bid to close his flanks, embattled Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has moved into the Government House, 13 months after he assumed office.
The governor who had been operating from Aba since his inauguration on May 29, 2015 finally moved into the Government House at the weekend apparently in response to the looming threat to displace him by Mr. Uche Ogah, who was declared governor by a Federal High Court Abuja and issued certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week.
Until now, Ikpeazu had been living in Aba citing the need to keep close tabs on the ongoing rehabilitation of the infrastructure in the commercial city and also to allow for completion of renovation work at the governor’s lodge.
Also, Ikpeazu yesterday worshipped at the Government House Unity Chapel for the first time since becoming governor and sought the face of God in prayers to overcome his present travails.
A day earlier, Ikpeazu, at a press conference, had insisted that he remains the chief executive of the state and also maintained that it was wrong to insinuate that there are two governors in Abia state, premising his position on the fact that he remains the only one that had taken the of Office and Oath of Allegiance as governor.
Yesterday, the governor led other members of Seventh Day Adventist Church as well as government officials, PDP stalwarts, including former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, traditional rulers and a cross section of Abia people, to participate at the church service.
Ikpeazu, along with his deputy Sir, Ude Oko Chukwu, Speaker of Abia House of Assembly, Rt Honourable Martins Azubuike, and elder statesman, Elder Emma Adaelu, took turns to pray for a favourable outcome of his appeal against the judgment of Justice Okon Abang that nullified his mandate.
Preaching at the special service, President, Eastern Nigeria Union Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Bassey Udoh, urged Ikpeazu to cling to God in his present circumstance as God alone has the final say in all matters.
While urging the governor to remain silent and wait on the Lord to do his battle, he assured him that “God is still in charge and does not end His things half way,” adding that “God has never lost any battle”.
He told Ikpeazu that the current political crisis in Abia had come at the right time to enable God redeem the state, noting that crisis situations like this would enable the governor to know those actually on his side, adding that he should “not be deterred by hypocrites who have already identified with his opponents”.
Pastor Udoh described the federal high court judgment that nullified Ikpeazu’s election as “a sinking sand” hence it would not stand because whatever God did not plan will not work.
Meanwhile the Abia state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Chief Umeh Kalu, has vehemently debunked the claims by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it did not receive any Notice of Appeal from Ikpeazu or an injunction stopping the Commission from issuing a Certificate of Return to Dr. Uche Ogah.
He pointedly stated that “INEC lied in its claims”, explaining that a proof of service has shown that the Commission did indeed receive the two important documents and it was signed for by Saleh N. Ibrahim, Senior Clerical Officer at the Legal Services Department at INEC headquarters, Abuja.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that INEC said that it was not served. But the truth is that they were served. I have a proof to that. Saleh N. Ibrahim, Senior Clerical Officer at the Legal Services Department of the Commission’s Headquarters, Abuja, stamped the Notice of Appeal and Injunction with the Commission’s official stamp by 12.50pm on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
“With the foregoing, it is now clear that the Commission had no reason or cause to proceed with their dangerous action of issuing a Certificate of Return to Dr. Uche Ogah when it was clearly in receipt of a Notice of Appeal and Stay of Execution expressly forbidding them from taking any further action on the Judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court pending the determination of the Appeal in the case.
“It is rather surprising that the Commission could lend itself to be used for an act capable of destabilising a state in Nigeria with the attendant consequences for anarchy and breakdown of law and order,” Kalu said.
Also, the State Government has continued to dispel any notion suggesting that Ikpeazu was no longer the governor of the state, saying that the status quo has not changed.
This was contained in a statement signed by the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Enyinnaya Appolos, saying, that the state government “wishes to reiterate for the umpteenth time that Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu remains the Governor of Abia State irrespective of whatever order was issued by the Federal High Court and the consequential actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pending the full exhaustion of all judicial avenues of seeking redress.”
Ogah however said at the weekend that he would been sworn in in due course.
“Dr Ikpeazu has been duly removed as Abia state Governor and not amount of legal shenanigans and illegal public holidays will derail the law of the land taking full effect.
Dr Ogah will be sworn-in in due course so as to avoid the dangerous power vacuum that currently exists in Abia state, and for him to begin the urgent task of empowering Abians with his laudable developmental programmes already lined up,” Special Adviser to Ogah on Public Communications, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, said at a news conference in Abuja.
He said Ogah’s declaration as governor by the court was a victory for the sanctity of the law and “testimony to the majesty of the rule of law upon which constitutional governance is founded and relied on in Nigeria”.
Ubani said INEC acted within its powers as a law-abiding institution in issuing Ogah a certificate of return so as to avoid an unpalatable leadership vacuum in the state.
Regarding the controversy over the issue of stay of execution of the valid order by the Federal High Court, Ubani argued that the difference between a pre-election matter on which the Federal High Court based its ruling on and the post-election trial of electoral matters by tribunals on the issue of stay of execution or arrest of judgement is very clear.
“In a pre-election matter the enforceability of a court judgement is immediate as the losing side in the legal argument, in this case, Dr Ikpeazu, was never adjudged to have been qualified to contest the election in the first place while in a post-election matter the mandate enjoyed by an incumbent subsists until the tribunal or appellate courts rule otherwise,” he said.
As tension mounts over the governorship crisis in the state, Police Force headquarters has said it would ensure law and order is maintained. Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Donald Awunah, said the Police were on top of the situation and would continue to monitor developments to ensure there is no breakdown of law and order in the state.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in the capital city with more anti-riot policemen stationed at strategic areas of the city. The main entrance gate to the Government House has also been blocked by the police leaving the exit gate to serve dual purposes of entry and exit. (Thisday)