APC Chieftain & Ex-Minister, Uche Ogah Convicted For Forgery

A Magistrate Court in Umuahia, Abia State, Thursday, convicted a former Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, for forging the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary result in the state.

The judgement followed a criminal complaint filed by the APC in the state alleging that Mr Ogah forged the party’s direct primary result sheet “with intent that it may be acted on as genuine”, despite not participating in the party’s governorship primary held on 26 May.

The plaintiff submitted that Mr Ogah’s “falsification” was detrimental to the party and Ikechi Emenike, whom the party recognises as its “authentic governorship flag bearer,” according to a report by TheCable.

The offence, the APC argued, is in contravention of section 465 of the Criminal Code (as it applies in Abia) and punishable under section 467 of the code.

Delivering judgment on Thursday, the magistrate, Ngozi Nwangwa, held that the defendant “is guilty as charged”.

“I’m convinced that the defendant has no defence,” the magistrate said.

“I hereby commit Dr Uche Ogah for the offence as charged,” she added.

Mr Ogah, the defendant, was not present in the court during proceeding.

But the magistrate ordered security agencies to arrest him wherever he may be and hold him in any correctional facility until the day he would be brought to court for sentencing.

The defendant had failed to appear before the court since November when the matter came up for hearing, and no lawyer represented him.

The magistrate, however, said the former minister had written a petition to the chief judge and the attorney-general alleging “bias and compromise”.

The APC had called Chidi Avajah, state secretary of the Abia APC, as its sole witness on 30 November.

They also tendered as exhibits, affidavits deposed to by Tony Obiefuna, a representative of the APC governorship primary election panel for Abia, and Chukwudi Kanu, who was an interested party in the primary. Both men stated that their signatures were forged by Mr Ogah.

The defendant failed to open his defence on the charges against him.

The prosecution, after making its submission, closed its case and urged the court “to accept the documentary evidence, rely on them and act on them.”

Can private individuals or civil groups institute a criminal complaint?

Stanley Alieke, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, told PREMIUM TIMES that given that the issue was a criminal matter, the court has powers to convict Mr Ogah.

“The offence of forgery he committed is a crime which is punishable with conviction.

“And again, does the magistrate court have the jurisdiction to entertain matters of that capacity, the answer is yes,” the lawyer said.

Mr Alieke said Mr Ogah can only appeal the judgment, pointing out that any action by the APC candidate against the judgment would amount to contempt of court.

Asked if private individuals or civil groups have the right to institute a criminal case, the lawyer said the previous rule was that only the attorney-general of the state has the powers to institute and prosecute criminal cases, according to Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He explained that, under the old rule, private individuals or groups could only institute criminal matters when they had successfully applied to the attorney-general of the state for a fiat.

“That’s what most lawyers know. But a recent Supreme Court judgment repealed that rule. It (the judgment) simply said that private lawyers and individuals can institute and prosecute a criminal matter. So, it is no longer the attorney-general of the state that has the sole powers to do so,” he said.

Background on leadership crisis
Ahead of the general elections in 2023, the APC had been embroiled in a leadership tussle in the state, leading to two factions.

Messr Ogah and Emenike had emerged as the APC governorship candidates in Abia State from two parallel primaries.

But, a Federal High Court in Abuja had, on 11 November, nullified the primary which produced Mr Emenike and affirmed Mr Ogah as the Abia APC governorship candidate for the 2023 governorship election in the state.

APC Chieftain & Ex-Minister, Uche Ogah Convicted For Forgery – Politics – Nigeria (nairaland.com)

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