- Judge misdirected himself in law – Ikpeazu
Abuja division of the Court of Appeal yesterday reserved its judgement on appeal challenging the removal of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from
office over alleged tax fraud.
A five-man panel of justices of the appellate court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju
adjourned the matter for judgement after it heard six separate appeals that arose from verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja that removed Ikpeazu.
Trial Justice Okon Abang had on June 27 ordered Ikpeazu to immediately vacate the
governorship seat, even as he directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Dr. Sampson Ogah who came second in the
gubernatorial primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, conducted in Abia State on December 8, 2014.
Justice Abang said he was satisfied that Ikpeazu perjured by giving false information in the Form CF001 and documents accompanying it, which he submitted to both PDP and the INEC.
Meanwhile, both Ikpeazu and the PDP, through their respective teams of lawyers, yesterday urged the appellate court to set side the high court judgement which they said had occasioned a huge miscarriage of justice.
Arguing his appeal, Ikpeazu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), insisted that Justice Abang acted beyond his powers and misdirected himself
According to the him, “The trial judge erred in law when he ordered as a consequential order that the appellant vacates his office as the governor of Abia State immediately, when there was no jurisdiction in the Federal High Court to remove, vacate the occupier of the office of the governor of a state or order the removal of such officer after the unsuccessful challenge of the result of the election at the tribunal and swearing-in of the appellant as
He contended that the only power, authority and order exercisable by the trial court was to disqualify a candidate from contesting election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral Act 2010.
Ikpeazu faulted Justice Abang for arriving at the conclusion that he did not pay his tax for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 as at when due.
He then urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the lower court.
However, counsel to Samson Ogah, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) said that the judgement of the lower court was misconstrued by Governor Ikpeazu, because the issue of forgery was not before the trial court but that of supply of false information to obtain the nomination of the PDP to stand for the governorship poll in 2015.
The counsel argued that the appellant did not dispute that the information he swore to before the commissioner for oat and made available to the PDP was forged and that the case of the appellant was compounded when one of his witnesses admitted error in the computation of the tax paid.
He, therefore, urged the court to uphold the Federal High Court judgement and dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
Meanwhile, in another appeal by Ikpeazu against the judgement granted Messrs Obasi Uba Ekeagbara and Chukwuemeka Uba, the appellate court was prayed to set aside the judgement on the ground that the originating summons was not signed as required by law.
Olanipekun, who argued the case of the governor, informed the court that the amended originating summons signed later by a counsel could not cure the defect on the ground that a defective origination summon could not be cured by an amendment.
However, opposing the appeal, counsel to Ekeagbara and Chkwu, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) submitted that the address of Olanipekun on the defective originating summon could not take the place of evidence before the appellate court.
He insisted that the argument of counsel could not take the place of evidence before the court.
Izinyon insisted that amended originating summon contained signature of a counsel, Maxi Ozuaka, and urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
Justice Morenikeji Ogunwumiju, after taking arguments from counsels in the six appeals, reserved judgements, saying that the date for judgements would be communicated to lawyers.