The embattled Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which removed him as the state governor for not paying his taxes and forgery of his tax clearance certificate.
Justice Okon Abang had on June 27 ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a certificate of return to Mr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah, who scored the second highest number of votes in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary for the selection of a governorship candidate to contest the April 2015 gubernatorial election.
In his notice of appeal, Ikpeazu through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), raised 50 grounds of appeal and expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the lower court.
He, therefore, joined Ogah, PDP, INEC and Sir Friday Nwanozie Nwosu as the first to fourth respondents respectively.
His first ground of appeal was that the trial judge erred in law and came to a wrong decision in holding that the appellant was ineligible to participate in the primary of the second respondent by reason of presenting false information to the third respondent in INEC Form CF001 and consequently granting all the reliefs claimed by the first respondent in his originating summons.
According to the second grounds of appeal, the lower court equally erred in law and reached a perverse decision when after concluding thus: “The cause of action arose in this matter when the first and second defendants forwarded Form CF001 containing alleged false information to the INEC.”
He said the court went ahead to disqualify the appellant from being a candidate at the second respondent’s primary and declared the first respondent as the winner of the primary.
On his third grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu held that the lower court erred in law and acted without jurisdiction when it purported to have enforced/applied the provisions of the PDP Electoral Guidelines for primary elections 32014 in determining the originating summons before it without the PDP guidelines being put in evidence before it.
In his fourth grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu pointed out that the lower court also erred in law and reached a perverse decision when it held in respect of the Supreme Court decision in Ekagbara v. Ikpeazu (2016) 4 NWLR (pt. 1503) 541 thus: “In fact, in the above cited case, the Supreme Court in a way departed from its earlier decision in Kharki v. PDP… Supreme Court also held that this court has jurisdiction to entertain a suit questioning the qualification of an aspirant in a primary election by a fellow aspirant when the aspirant whose qualification is being questioned did not pay tax as and when due or where there are lapses in the tax paper of such aspirant…
“In Ekagbara v. Ikpeazu (supra), the Supreme Court also held that it does not really matter that this will involve the examination of tax administration in Abia State of Nigeria.”
In his fifth grounds of appeal, the appellant observed that trial judge erred in law and came to a perverse decision when he asked thus: “It is either that the information are false or correct, I do not think it is a case of forgery. I do not think facts are in dispute.
“Even if the affidavits of the parties are in dispute, they are not in my view in dispute on material facts… It is for the first to second defendants to show that the information contained in documents attached to Form CF001 submitted to INEC are not false… I think the court can conveniently use the affidavit evidence placed before it to resolve issues in controversy. This suit was properly commenced by an originating summon.”
In the 17th grounds of appeal, the governor observed that the lower court misdirected itself and reached a perverse decision when it held that the appellant presented false information to INEC by reason of the alleged differences between the tax receipts and the tax certificate with respect to the tax returns of 2013.
In the last grounds of appeal, Ikpeazu stressed that the decision of the lower court was/is against the weight of evidence, and therefore sought the following relief from the Court of Appeal, the first being an order allowing this appeal.
The second, an order setting aside all the main and consequential orders made and granted by the lower court and the last, an order dismissing or striking out the amended originating summons in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/71/2016. (Thisday)