S/Court affirms Ikpeazu as Abia Governor

The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday affirmed the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia State on the grounds that he was properly nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The apex court, in the judgment delivered yesterday, dismissed the three separate suits filed against the governor by Samson Ogah and Friday Nwosu, for lacking in merit.

In the lead judgement written by Justice Musa Datijo Mohamed and read by Justice Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court held that the appellants failed to prove his allegation that the tax clearance of the governor was forged.

According to the judgement, tax of civil servants are normally deducted from source and being a civil servant at the time, Ikpeazu’s tax was deducted from source, adding that if there are any irregularities, it is not the governor that should be held responsible.

The court awarded a cost of N250,000 in favor of the governor and the PDP.

The legal battle to unseat Governor Ikpeazu started after the judgment of the Abuja Division  of the Court of Appeal which, last year upturned the judgment by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja which sacked Governor Ikpeazu from office.

The appellate court, in the unanimous judgment vacated the June 27, 2016 judgment  of Justice Abang and held that the he  erred in law and that the judgement occasioned a miscarriage of justice against Ikpeazu.

Justice Helen Ogunwumiju who delivered the lead judgement of the Court of Appeal, held that Justice Abang “committed a grave violence against one of the pillars of Justice” relating to fair hearing, adding that Abang placed the law on its head when it directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Ogah.

While upholding Ikpeazu’s appeal, the court awarded N100, 000 cost against Ogah and resolved all the five issues raised in the appeal in favour of Ikpeazu.

Justice Abang had in his judgments delivered on June 27, 2016 sacked Ikpeazu for allegedly disclosing false information in relation to his tax clearance details to INEC in his form nominating him as the candidate of the PDP for the last year’s governorship election in the state.

The judge, also in the said judgment, ordered the governor’s rival, Ogah, who was the first runner-up in the primary that produced Ikpeazu as the candidate of the PDP to takeover, adding that, Ikpeazu was not qualified to be PDP’s candidate having disclosed false information to INEC in violation of his party’s Article 14(a) of the PDP Electoral Guidelines and Section 31 of the Electoral Act.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, Governor Ikpeazu approached the Court of Appeal, praying it to set aside Justice Abang’s judgment which sacked him from the Abia State Government House.

But the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered yesterday affirmed the election of Governor Ikpeazu, saying that he was validly nominated by the PDP to fly the flag of the party in Abia State.

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