Don’t panic, I remain your gov, Ikpeazu tells Abians
By Anayo Okoli
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang has annulled the election of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Mr. Uche Oga, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, who contested the governorship ticket with the governor.
The order was based on the allegation that Ikpeazu submitted false information to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the party’s governorship primary in December 2014.
The court held that Mr. Ikpeazu was guilty of tax evasion and was, therefore, unqualified to have contested the 2015 governorship election in the state.
The court also ordered the governor to vacate office immediately, and hand over to Mr. Ogah, who came second in the PDP governorship primary in Abia.
Gov. Ikpeazu was accused by two members of the PDP for failing to pay personal income tax promptly as at when due for 2010 and 2011 in line with Section 24(f) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “It shall be the duty of every citizen to … declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and pay his tax promptly.”
In suit no. FHC/ABJ/ CS/1086/2014, dated December 22, 2014, and instituted at the Federal High Court, Abuja, two individuals, Obasi Eke and Chukwuemeka Mba, had asked the PDP and INEC to disqualify Mr. Ikpeazu from contesting the governorship election.
The plaintiffs contended that Mr. Ikpeazu was not fit and proper, having failed to pay his personal income tax for two years in line with the demand of the Constitution of Nigeria.
They further asked the court for “A declaration that the 3rd de fendant, Mr. Ikpeazu, having failed and/or refused to pay his personal income tax promptly as at when due for the years 2010 and 2011 in compliance with the mandatory provisions of Section 24(f) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended, as well as Paragraph 13 of Part IV of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014, is not a fit and proper person to contest the gubernatorial election of Abia State in the 2015 general election, and is accordingly disqualified from contesting the election.”
They also asked for an order barring the PDP from presenting Mr Ikpeazu as candidate for governor in the 2015 election.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs included an order barring INEC from accepting Mr. Ikpeazu as Abia State PDP governorship candidate for the 2015 election.
They also requested a consequential order that the candidate at the PDP primary election of December 8, 2014, who polled the second highest number of votes cast at the said election should be pronounced the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship election.
Don’t panic, I remain your governor, Ikpeazu tells Abians
Reacting to his removal from office, the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu called on Abians not to panic, but to remain calm over the judgment delivered in favour of Mr. Uche Oga against him, in the case of alleged falsification of tax receipts.
Governor Ikpeazu, who said that he has faith in the judiciary and rule of law, added that he will appeal the ruling as he has instructed his lawyers to file an appeal immediately against the said judgment.
The Governor noted as an appointee of the Abia State Government from 2011 to 2014, when he served as the General Manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS), and first Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) Aba and Environs respectively, before his resignation in October 2014 to contest the Governorship election in the state, his taxes were deducted at source, and when he had need of his tax clearance in 2014, he applied to the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue, and was duly issued with his tax receipts for the period in question.
He maintained that he remains the Governor of the state according to law and will await the final determination of the matter by the appellate court.