Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu will soon know whether he would remain the governor.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reserved judgment in an appeal by him against the judgment of a Federal High Court which sacked him as governor of Abia state on 27 June.
The lower court judgment was delivered by Justice Okon Abang.
The judgment was the outcome of a protracted suit by some participants in the 2014 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Abia State governorship primaries won by Ikpeazu which has not been accorded much attention by many.
The aspirants who lost to Ikpeazu had gone to court to challenge the victory of the Governor in that primary over allegations that the tax clearance certificate presented by him as required by law for gubernatorial contests was fraudulent.
The aggrieved aspirants alleged that Ikpeazu paid the three-year taxes which clearance papers he was required to include in the nomination form he submitted to INEC in one day to enable him qualify to contest the governorship election of the state.
The plaintiffs in the suit, Messrs Obasi Uba Ekagbara and Chukwuemeka Mba also contended that Ikpeazu was not eligible to contest PDP’s governorship primaries as ‘’he did not pay his taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as at when due.’’
They backed up their allegation with documentary evidence to show that ‘’taxes allegedly paid for three years were paid on the same day,’ ’ a fact which they said vitiated the authenticity of the tax clearance certificate issued to Ikpeazu and his INEC ‘’Form CF100.’’
The Governor did all he could to stop the hearing of the case, insisting that the suit should have been filed at State, rather than Federal High Court.
The Court of Appeal agreed with him that Federal High Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
But the aggrieved aspirants proceeded to Supreme Court.
The panel of the apex court, led by Justice Mohammed Muntaka-Coomassie, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the competence of the Federal High Court to try the case.
The apex court consequently ordered that the case should be remitted back to the Federal High Court for an accelerated trial.
They backed their judgment up with an order to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria ‘’to ensure that the case is heard and determined expeditiously.’’
Federal High Court reopened the case after the Supreme Court ruling.
After hearing arguments from all parties, the Court delivered the unexpected judgment on Monday.
Justice Abang, who ordered that Uche Ogah who came second in the PDP primary should be immediately sworn in as governor agreed in his judgment that information in the tax clearance certificate presented by Ikpeazu to the party during the governorship primaries in the state was false.
The Judge, while relying on the Supreme Court decisions in the case of Obi vs INEC and Ameachi vs INEC made a consequential order that Ogah, a PDP gubernatorial aspirant in 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 held that the tax clearance certificate and income tax receipts submitted by Ikpeazu were unknown to the law and made him ineligible to contest 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, 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 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.