- I remain in office, Ikpeazu tells supporters
A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday nullified the election of Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, and ordered him to vacate office immediately.
Justice Okon Abang also asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a certificate of return to Uche Ogah, who contested against Ikpeazu for the Peoples Democratic Party governorship ticket in December 2014.
Ogah had accused Ikpeazu of submitting false information in his tax clearance certificate to the party during the governorship primaries in the state.
Justice Abang therefore ordered INEC to issue a certificate of return to Ogah as the duly elected governor of Abia.
He said the court relied on the Supreme Court decisions in the cases of Obi vs INEC and Ameachi vs INEC to make the consequential order.
The court said that Ogah, a PDP gubernatorial aspirant in the 2015 election in Abia, was entitled to the certificate of return in the election held in April 2015.
“It is hereby ordered that INEC, the third defendant, should immediately issue certificate of return to Dr Samson Ogah as governor of Abia State in the election held in 2015 and restore to him all the entitlements as the elected governor of Abia.
“Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is hereby ordered to vacate office as governor of Abia immediately relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in INEC vs Obi,” he held.
Abang also held that the tax clearance certificate and income tax receipts submitted by Ikpeazu were unknown to the law and made him ineligible to contest in the poll.
He held that the 2011 tax clearance certificate and income tax receipt submitted to INEC before the 2014 PDP primaries contained false information.
The court said that Ikpeazu’s appointment letter as general manager of Abia Passenger Integrated Scheme on July 18, 2011, spelt out his salary and entitlements.
“Going by the appointment letter, Ikpeazu would have worked for Abia Passenger Integrated Scheme for five months 12 days.
“The earnings of the second defendant based on the letter of appointment by single calculation in 2011 for five months, 12 days, is
N493,000 or N546, 669 if not assigned government vehicle.
“The tax payment submitted by the second defendant didn’t reflect this figure,” the court held.
Abang further held that the tax certificate indicated the gross earnings of Ikpeazu for 2011 to be N1.14 million and the income tax was assessed on this figure.
He also held that the date on the tax receipt filed by the governor was on a Saturday, adding that Saturday, even in Abia, was a public holiday.
The court said that Ikpeazu did not file his tax clearance in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and that all payments he made preceding the 2014 primaries were made in one day and not as and when due.
Abang held that Ikpeazu perjured when he said that he had fulfilled all the requirements to contest the 2015 elections.
This, he said, was because he had failed to provide a tax clearance certificate that was known to the law, and therefore, the governor was not qualified to be the candidate of the PDP in the primaries of 2014 and was also not qualified to be fielded as the candidate for the 2015 election.
He held that Ogah was the qualified candidate of the PDP for the 2015 election and his name ought to have been forwarded to INEC as the PDP candidate, noting that Ikpeazu did not win the PDP
primaries as he was not eligible or qualified to contest in the poll.
The court also awarded N100, 000 cost in favour of Ogah.
Chief Ikpeazu was accused by two members of the PDP of failing to pay personal income tax promptly as and when due for 2010 and 2011, in line with Section 24(f) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen to declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and pay his tax promptly.”
In suit number FHC/ABJ/ CS/1086/2014 dated December 22, 2014, and instituted at the Federal High Court, Abuja, two petitioners, Obasi Eke and Chukwuemeka Mba, had asked the PDP and INEC to disqualify Governor Ikpeazu from contesting the governorship election.
The plaintiffs contended that Chief Ikpeazu was not fit and proper, having failed to pay his personal income tax for two years in line with the demand of the Constitution of Nigeria.
They further asked the court for “a declaration that the third defendant (Ikpeazu), having failed and/or refused to pay his personal income tax promptly as and when due for the years 2010 and 2011 in compliance with the mandatory provisions of Section 24(f) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended, as well as Paragraph 13 of Part IV of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014, is not a fit and proper person to contest in the gubernatorial election of Abia State in the 2015, and is accordingly disqualified from contesting the election.”
They also asked for an order barring the PDP from presenting Chief Ikpeazu as candidate for governor in the 2015 election.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs included an order barring INEC from accepting Ikpeazu as Abia State PDP governorship candidate for the 2015 election.
They also requested a consequential order that the candidate at the PDP primary election of December 8, 2014, who polled the second highest number of votes cast at the said election should be pronounced the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship election in Abia State.
Don’t panic, I remain your governor, Ikpeazu tells Abians
The ousted Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State yesterday asked the people of the state not to panic over the judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered yesterday in favour of Dr Uche Oga in the case of alleged falsification of tax receipts.
Governor Ikpeazu, who said that he had faith in the judiciary and rule of law, added that he would appeal the ruling as he had instructed his lawyers to immediately file an appeal against the judgement.
The governor noted that as an appointee of Abia State government from 2011 to 2014, when he served as the general manager of Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme, ASPIMSS,
and first Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency, ASEPA, Aba and environs, before his resignation in October 2014 to contest in the governorship election, his taxes were deducted at source, and when he had need of his tax clearance in 2014, he applied to the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue, and was duly issued with his tax receipts for the period in question.
He maintained that he remained the governor of the state according to law and would await the final determination of the matter by the appellate court.