Celestine Omehia Not Entitled To Benefits Of Former Gov – Court Rules 

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JUSTICE Daketima Kio of Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has ruled that Chief Celestine Omehia is not entitled to pension benefits from the state government.

Delivering judgment in the contentious suit, Justice Kio ruled against the demand by the Rivers State government and the Rivers State House of Assembly for Omehia to refund over N696 million paid to him as pension and other benefits until his de-recognition.

Justice Kio held that Chief Omehia had never officially served as governor of Rivers State insisting that proper interpretation of the Governor and Deputy Governor Pension and Free Benefits Law precluded him from benefiting from the pension scheme as stipulated under the state’s pension law.

The court also held that Chief Omehia cannot be held liable for the errors of the defendants in the suit. The defendants in the suit include the Rivers State governor, Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in the state, Speaker of the state House of Assembly and the state House of Assembly.  

The court further stressed that Chief Omehia never sought recognition from the state government or the House of Assembly, and thus cannot legitimately demand the funds paid to him erroneously.

Justice Kio affirmed the Supreme Court’s characterization of Chief Omehia as an imposter and held that he should not be accorded the status of a former governor or benefit from the Governor and Deputy Governor’s Pension Law.

Justice Kio refrained from awarding costs in favour of any of the parties in the suit, directing that each party should bear its costs.

Counsel to the Rivers State government and House of Assembly, Success Gibert, expressed satisfaction with the aspect of the judgment favouring his clients.

However, he declined to comment on the ruling regarding the repayment of funds by the claimant, stating that the government will address the matter accordingly.

Eighteen-Eleven Media reports that Chief Omehia had approached the court seeking legal interpretation of his status as a former governor.  

It will be recalled that following the expiration of Chief Peter Odili’s tenure, Chief Omehia assumed office and was sworn in as governor on 29 May 2007.

However, his candidacy was challenged by Rotimi Amaechi, leading to a protracted legal battle over the validity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries that brought Omehia to power.

However, after a legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that Amaechi was the validly elected candidate of the PDP. Omehia was therefore removed in 2007 on the order of the Supreme Court six months after he was declared winner of the state governorship election.

Despite this ruling, during Nyesom Wike’s tenure as governor, the House of Assembly enacted a law recognizing Omehia’s governorship.

In a surprising turn of events in 2023, Wike revoked the recognition previously accorded to Omehia and demanded the refund of all pensions earned during his tenure following his support for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar

In response, Omehia sought legal recourse, petitioning the court to uphold his status as a former governor of the state.

Eighteen-Eleven Media

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