By Anayo Okoli
Umuahia— Embattled Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state who was sacked from office on Thursday by a Federal High Court Abuja for alleged tax evasion declared yesterday that democracy was on trial in the state but vowed to challenge the court verdict up to the Supreme Court. Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja had in his judgement on Monday ordered INEC to issue a certificate of return to Ikpeazu’s challenger, Dr Uche Ogah and also ordered Ikpeazu to vacate office.
The development caused tension in the state on Thursday, following an alleged attempt by Ogah to get the state Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, to swear him in as the governor. Briefing newsmen at the Presidential Lodge, Government House, Umuahia, yesterday, Ikpeazu who was flanked by his deputy, Chief Ude Oko Chukwu, the Deputy Speaker of the House and some of his aides, said the illegality would not stand and that he remained the governor.
He said, “I am still the governor of Abia, so, I appeal to our people to remain calm until the final verdict of the Supreme Court. This illegality will not stand. I will test the judgment in the Appeal Court up to the Supreme Court. “Even if it was a death sentence, I don’t think that I will be executed without right of appeal.
“That right is fundamental, that right is undeniable and a denial of that right is a denial of my fundamental right. There is no doubt over who is in charge or who the governor of Abia State is because you people witnessed the day we were sworn-in and you also all witnessed the day we took oath of allegiance and no other person has taken that oath again as the Governor of Abia State”, Dr. Ikpazu said.
The governor who wondered the “urgency and desperation” with which Ogah wanted to be sworn-in, vowed that “we are resolute to defend the mandate given us by the people”. The governor said that he was resolute in his determination to defend the mandate given to him and assured the people that the mandate was still intact. “What is on trial in Abia is democracy and not me as a person, “he said . According to him, the tenets of democracy emphasise that the will of the people is sacrosanct . The governor urged the people to disregard the speculation in some quarters that the crisis in the state was influenced by the Federal Government.
He said that the Federal government, which is currently fighting corruption in the country, could not indulge in such an act that was antithetical to democracy. Speaking on the allegation of tax evasion levelled against him by Ogah, Ikpeazu said that, as a government employee, his tax was paid to Abia Board of Internal Revenue. He said that the board had come out with an affidavit to prove that the tax receipts he tendered were issued by it and was ready to defend the documents. Ikpeazu expressed happiness over the conduct of youths in the state and urged them to maintain their calmness.
He said that “Abia is calm contrary to current act of wanton destruction of oil pipelines in other Niger Delta states in the country. Abia perhaps is the only Niger Delta state in the country where youths have refused to join in vandalising Federal Government pipeline installations.”