JUST IN: Court stops Omehia from refunding N696m pension, other benefits



A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has ruled against the demand by Rivers State Government and the state House of Assembly for Sir Celestine Omehia to refund over N696m paid to him as pension and other benefits by the state government till his de-recognition as a former governor.


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The court held that Omehia, from proper interpretation of the Governor and Deputy Governor Pension and Fringe Benefits Law, has never been a former governor of Rivers State and should not benefit from the pension as stated under the Pension Law of Rivers State Government.


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The presiding Judge, Justice Daketima Kio, in his judgment in a suit filed by Omehia against the Rivers State Governor, the Attorney General of the state, the Speaker and the House of Assembly, however, held that Omehia cannot be made to suffer the wrong of the defendants in the suit.



Justice Kio ruled that from every fact, Omehia never applied to be recognised by the state government and state House of Assembly, hence cannot legitimately demand the money paid wrongly to the claimant since the demand came in a way of counterclaim or cross action in an originating summon.

Justice Kio insisted that the judgment of the Supreme Court which described Omehia as an imposter and pretender stood and that Omehia should not prefer the status of a former governor and should not benefit from the Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Law.


Justice Kio also held that the parties should bear their cost themselves.


Speaking to newsmen outside the courtroom, counsel for the state government and House of Assembly, Success Gilbert, expressed happiness over the judgment, but declined comment on the part that refused the claimant to repay the monies he received, insisting that the government will answer that.


Gilbert said, “Today, the court in its wisdom, held that in the eyes of the law, affirming the decision of the celebrated case of Rotimi Amaechi versus INEC, that Sir Celestine Omehia was never a former governor and should not be accorded that status.

“And therefore, he is not entitled to benefit from the Rivers State Former Governors and Former Deputy Governors Pensions Law and Fringe benefits because he is not entitled and therefore he should not be recognised.


“That is the decision of the court in this matter.”

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Asked about his view on the court stopping Omehia from refunding the monies paid to him before his de-recognition, Gilbert, who is also a Senior State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, said it was a sensitive matter that would be left for the state government to decide.


He stated, “I will not want to comment on that considering my position as a civil servant. I’m a government lawyer, so I wouldn’t want to comment on that.


“The matter is quite a sensitive one, and it will be left for the government to decide whichever way, but I keep my opinion to myself.”


Counsel for Omehia, Seraki Orlu, declined comment on the judgment.



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