Chuks Muokwe, Umuahia
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has filed an appeal against Monday’s judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja which ordered him to vacate office.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, also ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return it issued to Ikpeazu and issue a fresh one to Uche Ogah, who placed second in the primary election that produced Ikpeazu.
But in a notice of appeal filed by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), the governor raised five grounds of appeal upon which he asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment as given by Justice Abang.
The governor said that the Federal High Court lacked the power to order him to vacate office.
He contended that “the trial judge erred in law when he ordered, as a consequential order, that the appellant vacates his office as the Governor of Abia state immediately when there was no jurisdiction in the Federal High Court to remove, vacate the occupier of the office of the governor of a state or order the removal of such officer after the unsuccessful challenge of the result of the election at the Tribunal and swearing in of the appellant as the governor.”
The governor said that the only power, authority and order exercisable by the Federal High Court was to disqualify the candidate from contesting the election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral Act 2010.
Ikpeazu also faulted Justice Abang where he held that he (Ikpeazu) did not pay his tax for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013, at when due, when he was a public officer whose tax deduction was under Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme were made from the source of his monthly salary by the tax authorities who issued all the tax receipts and certificates.
He also said that the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue Services that issued him with the tax certificates had not declared the certificates forged and that the trial court did not invite the issuing authorities to give evidence in the course of the trial.
Ikpeazu said that the plaintiff, Samson Uchechukwu Ogah, was not a staff of the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue and that no staff of the board testified that the tax certificates were forged.
He also accused Justice Abang of violating his right to fair hearing by embarking on judicial investigation without giving him (Ikpeazu) the opportunity to address the court on the issue.
The notice of appeal also states: “The learned trial judge erred in law when he held that the appellant presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission by his ingenious meticulous study and investigation of documents filed in courts in the recess of his chambers and thereby violated the right of the appellant to fair hearing.”
The governor said that the judge had no duty to investigate the contents of documents dumped on the court in the recess of his chambers with a view to finding for the plaintiff.
“The decision of the judge which arose from the judicial investigation without opportunity to the appellant violated the appellant’s right to fair hearing”, the governor said.
Ikpeazu also rejected the decision of the high court declaring him unqualified to be nominated as the primary election conducted by his party because false information was supplied to INEC.
According to him, INEC Form CF001 which the judge relied on was not one of the grounds of qualification to contest the primary election of PDP.
He said that the judge misconceived the presented by the parties and thereby arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
Meanwhile, the governor’s party, the PDP has also rejected the judgment and filed a separate appeal.
The party said that the trial court erred in law when it held that it had jurisdiction to hear the suit which was on whether section 24 (f) of the 1999 constitution was complied with.
It said: “The honourable trial court misdirected itself when it construed the provisions of the PDP constitution to the detriment of the appellant without giving the appellant a chance to be heard and thereby occasioned miscarriage of justice.”
In the particulars of the error, the appellant said Ukeagbara and Mba being “the 1st and 2nd respondents in the appeal did not pray the trial court to construe the provisions of the PDP constitution.
“No evidence was led that the said Uche Sampson Ogah participated in the 2015 Abia State gubernatorial elections yet the trial court declared him as winner of the said elections contrary to the express provisions of section 141 of the Electoral Act.”
The PDP urged the Court of Appeal for “an order setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/10862014 delivered on the 27th day of June, 2016.”
The judge made the orders after disqualifying Ikpeazu as the candidate of the PDP in the April 11, 2015, governorship election on the basis that he committed perjury by giving false information in the Form 8C001 and documents accompanying it, which he and the PDP submitted nominating him to INEC as the party’s governorship candidate.