There is always a punishment for masterminds of any foiled coup. In Nigeria and precisely the military, there had been incidences of aborted or failed coups. The actors were indeed subjected to the supreme price in line with military tradition.
On June 30, a conscripted coup though not of the military but a civilian sort was cleverly foiled by Abians. One Dr. Uche Ogah from Uturu in Isuikwuato LGA,alongside his accomplices had almost removed the democratically elected governor of Abia state, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
Recall that Justice Okon Abang of Abuja Federal High Court 10 had delivered one of the most controversial judgments in the history of Nigerian judiciary. Nigerians were shocked 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.
Upon realizing that the judgment will not survive the judicial scrutiny of the Appeal court, Ogah and cohorts hurriedly conscripted INEC with one Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku leading the onslaught. Despite being served with notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution, INEC threw caution to the wind and issued Uche Ogah with a Certificate of Return.
The coup, however, was temporarily aborted when Dr. Ikpeazu and his party, PDP quickly obtained a court injunction from Osisioma Ngwa High court that tied the hands of the Abia Chief Judge and any other judicial officer 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 injunction from the High Court 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 rages, Justice Abang exhibited wanton judicial ignorance by clutching on the case, even after delivering his verdict. As the trial judge, Justice Abang shockingly assumed the jurisdiction of the appellate court and was about ruling on the stay application filed by Ikpeazu’s lawyers to suspend his judgment. He even had the audacity to interpret the appeal court rules meant for his seniors in the bench. Sadly, Justice Abang had to commit these judicial infractions to open a space for Ogah’s swearing-in.
But Justice Abang was defeated in his game when Gov. Ikpeazu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN asked him to toe the path of the biblical Pontiac 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 Justice Abang to adhere. It only took the concurrence of Ogah’s counsel, Alex Iziyon SAN who perhaps regained his consciousness to protect their profession from further embarrassment.
After hearing from the parties, the judgment was reserved till Thursday August 18. The five-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju didn’t waste much time to void Justice 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 corners of the law. The judgment finally foiled and nailed the perpetrators of the June 30 civilian coup against Gov. Ikpeazu and Abia people.
Now the plotters; who are they? How could they be punished? The known principal actors;Justice Okon Abang; Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku; Dr. Uche Ogah and Monday Onyekachi Ubani.
JUSTICE OKON ABANG
He is the hatchet judge that “stood the law on its head”. Justice Abang deliberately denied Ikpeazu and PDP fair hearing and arbitrarily awarded judgment to Ogah. He sealed his ears against the position of Abia State Board of Internal Revenue. Justice Abang further ordered INEC to issue a certificate of return to Ogah and insisted on the enforcement of his verdict before court of appeal entertains Ikpeazu’s appeal. That largely informed the reason he dangerously usurped the jurisdiction of the court of appeal. Justice Abang is known for controversies. For instance, the PDP crisis. Whether he is being contracted for these judicial racketeering or not, the fact remains that Justice Abang has become a huge embarrassment to the Nigerian judiciary. Many Nigerians expect the Nigerian Judicial Council to save its battered reputation occasioned by Justice Okon Abang’s judicial recklessness, fragrant abuse of court processes, alleged corrupt practices and obvious judicial incompetence. He deserves suspension at least to serve as a deterrent to others. The relevant authorities should also investigate Justice Abang’s recent activities with regard to Ikpeazu’s tax matter, PDP crisis and alleged romance with some powerful Nigerians behind his damaging judicial recklessness.
AMB. LAWRENCE NWURUKU
He hails from Ebonyi state. He is among the longest serving federal commissioners in INEC. He is the INEC Commissioner in charge of the South East zone. Nwuruku has in his finger tips, the powers, guidelines and limitations of the Commission. But when Ogah came knocking, Nwuruku just like Justice Abang turned INEC guideline and the law upside down. Beyond describing the judgment as “fantastic”, Nwuruku claimed that failure to decorate Ogah with certificate of return would sent him to the prison. Nwuruku who claimed to be acting within the letters of the judgment, never considered the notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution already served his Commission. For Nwuruku, another certificate of return would be re-issued to Ikpeazu if appeal court decides in his favour. Questions arise. What could have been the situation owing to the August 18 appeal court verdict if Ogah was successfully sworn-in on June 30? Whether Nwuruku unilaterally acted on his own or under the directive of INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu, his role in the aborted coup presented INEC as an irresponsible umpire. It also reduced its reputation as an electoral umpire and whittled down its credibility. Today, Uche Ogah parades a certificate of return unlawfully issued by INEC that has failed to take him to the promise land. With Nwuruku now portraying a bad image and liability to INEC, his employers should consider his retirement.
He is the principal actor. He hails from Isikwuato in Abia North Senatorial zone. Recently, his kinsmen from Abia North disowned him as a result of his inordinate ambition to become governor through the back thereby setting Abia North and Abia South on a collision course. They, however, renamed him ‘Nwoke Uturu'(The man from Uturu). The people of Abia North had by their action distanced themselves from the ill-fated project and further confined Ogah’s desperation and inordinate ambition to his Uturu community alone.
He lost party nomination and returned to Lagos for his business. While Dr. Ikpeazu campaigned across the 17 local government areas, Ogah laid ambush at at Justice Abang’s court 10,Abuja. With clandestine support from some other yet to be unmasked political merchants, Ogah was able to procure a confirmed controversial judgment from Justice Abang. Armed with Nwuruku’s certificate of return, the coup plotters intensified effort to smuggle Ogah into government house. Unfortunately for them, Abia people and owners of the mandate resisted and pushed them back to Uturu. Other moves they made were also detonated. The coup plotters knew that court of appeal will destroy the bad judgment, as such wanted Ogah smuggled inside government at all cost before appeal court entertained the matter. But their plans collapsed as pack of cards. Uche Ogah is among the cabal that dried up the nation’s treasury under the ‘subsidy’ claim. He has a criminal case already dangling on his deck. That accounts largely to the reason he desperately seeks immunity clause. But that is too late for him as President Buhari’s anti-corruption searchlight has already caught up with him. The anti-graft agencies are ready to investigate him roundly to recover all that he looted within the subsidy regime.
MONDAY ONYEKACHI UBANI
He is a lawyer and Ogah’s vuvuzela. The Lagos-based legal practitioner, who hails from Ikwuano Umuahia LGA of Abia state, was always in the media churning out wrong interpretations to the law and constitution. At a time, many Nigerians began to wonder whether he is truly a lawyer. In fact, he is and had chaired Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). With Ogah as governor desperado, Ubani on his part wanted the position of attorney-general at all cost. His desperation and quest for political power were written all over him. He defied every reasonable caution and good advice from family members and colleagues who observed his unexpected departure from the fundamentals of legal profession. While Justice Abang was somersaulted and turned the law on its head, Ubani was concurrently eulogizing and clapping for him in the media. Every wrong step taken by Justice Abang including usurping the jurisdiction of the appeal court was lawful in the eyes of Ubani. At a time, Ubani praised Justice Abang to high heaven describing him as the best judge in the country. At last, the appeal court verdict destroyed and paraded Justice Abang as a ‘rotten’ judge. Ubani by every reason is a beneficiary of that judicial slap delivered by the appellate court. The NBA being the most respected professional body should investigate the unprofessional conduct allegedly exhibited by Ubani within this period.
In conclusion, the court of appeal judgment which reaffirmed the governorship of Gov. 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 Gov. 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.
Ebere Uzoukwa, a public commentator writes from Aba