Legal fireworks as Ikpeazu, Ogah battle for Abia gov. at Appeal Court

Legal fireworks as Ikpeazu, Ogah battle for Abia gov. at Appeal Court

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 7:36 pm

Governor Ikpeazu

Governor Ikpeazu

The Abuja division of Court of Appeal on Tuesday deferred judgment after hearing the appeal of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State against the 27, June decision of Federal High Court, Abuja removing him from office.

Justice Okon Abang had in the judgment asked Governor Ikpeazu to vacate office over allegations that he submitted false tax information in the nomination form he submitted to contest the Peoples Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary of December, 2015.

The form was later submitted to INEC as part of the documents validating him as the Abia PDP gubernatorial candidate for the 2015 general elections.

The High Court had ordered INEC to issue of Certificate of Return to Uche Ogah who came second in the PDP primary and who filed the application for the annulment of Okezie’s election as governor of Abia State over allegations of presentation of false tax information.

While arguing the appeal against the judgment on Tuesday, counsel to the Abia governor, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) urged the Court to overturn the Federal High Court judgment.

In a short adumbration of his brief of argment filed before the Court containing 52 grounds of appeal, Chief Olanipekun noted that the case before the lower court revolves around PDP guidelines and tax papers submitted by the governor.

He noted that  the tax paper were not authored by the Governor who he said has been a civil servant before his election.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also noted that the appellate court had in the past ruled that the tax paper of a civil servant cannot be queried.

He argued that there is nothing to prove that the tax documents are fake since the lower court was not presented with evidence that his client tampered with them.

The lawyer noted that this was why the lower court cannot convict Ikpeazu of forgery.

While accusing the lower court of bias, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria noted that the PDP guidelines which was the document relied up to give the judgment was not even brought before the court, yet the Judge went on to interpret it.

While countering the claims of the appellant’s lawyer, Chief Alex Iziyon, lead counsel to Uche Ogah dismissed claims that Ikpeazu did not have anything to do with the tax documents he submitted to contest the PDP primary.

Iziyon said the Supreme Court has ruled that when a candidate submitted documents for an election, the onus will lie on him to prove their genuineness.

“Any candidate who by himself submitted any document on oath must swim or sink by those documents. The trial court relied on documents tendered, the appellants did not dispute the documents,  it was not a case of forgery, it is false information,” Iziyon said.

“The appellant said there was an error in the document, but at the time you submit, that was what was submitted. These are (tax) receipt brought by appellant himself. It is not a case of forgery. It is false information.

“There are Commissioner of Oath stamps at the back of the documents.

The Judge took the pains to go through the documents,” he added.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria therefore argued that there were enough evidence before the Court to prove that Gov. Okezie has violated section 31 of Electoral Act which prescribes sack from office for any politician who was elected based on presentation of false information.

He therefore urged the Court to uphold the Federal High Court judgment sacking Ikpeazu from office.

In a separate appeal against the judgment, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP argued that the lower court relied on the old version of the party guidelines in reaching its decision.

Onyechi Ikpeazu, (SAN) counsel to PDP also said the Judge relied on what was quoted by the applicant’s lawyers in their briefs without examining the PDP guidelines.

He noted that that while the 2010 version of PDP guidelines stipulated that candidates should pay their taxes “as at and when due,” there was no such condition in the 2014 version of the document which he said the lower court relied on for its judgment.

But Iziyon who expressed reservations that PDP which sponsored both litigants filed an appeal in the case said the issue of the version of the version of the party guidelines relied upon by the Court to reach its decision was irrelevant since the information submitted was false in the first instance.

The panel of the Appeal Court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju deferred judgment after hearing all the six appeals instituted against the lower court judgment.

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