By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday, declined to sack Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from office over alleged tax infractions.
A five-man panel of Justices of the apex court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which nullified Ikpeazu’s removal from office over the alleged fraud.
The apex court dismissed appeals that were lodged by two contenders for the governorship seat, Mr. Sampson Ogah and Sir Friday Nwosu, as lacking in merit.
The appellants went before the apex court to challenge August 18, 2016, decision of the Court of Appeal which reversed a high court judgment that sacked Ikpeazu.
It will be recalled that a five-man panel of Justices of the appellate court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju vacated the June 27 verdict of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Abang had in his judgment, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Ogah who came second in the primary election that produced Ikpeazu as gubernatorial flag-bearer of the PDP.
However, while setting-aside the high court verdict, the appellate court, knocked Justice Abang who it said “stood the law on its head”, as well as adopted a “hostile proceeding” against Ikpeazu and the PDP.
The appellate court noted that allegation of forgery and tax evasion levelled against Ikpeazu by Mr. Ogah were “very contentious”, saying Justice Abang was wrong to have determined the case on the basis of an Originating Process instead of Writ of Summons.
It concluded that Ikpeazu was denied fair hearing by the high court.
Meanwhile, the second appellant, Sir Nwosu, contended that he should be the one to take over from Ikpeazu should his sack be sustained by the apex court.
Nwosu told the court that Ogah not only refused to sign result of the said primary election, but equally condemned the entire exercise as being fraudulent.
He argued that Ogah, having failed to sign or accept the outcome of the PDP gubernatorial primary election, ought not to benefit from it.
Similarly, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state, Mr. Alex Otti who came second in the election, equally applied to be joined as an interested party in the legal action.
Otti insisted that he should be the one to replace Ikpeazu having secured the second highest number of valid votes at the April 11, 2015, governorship poll in Abia State.
However, while dismissing the appeals, the apex court described Otti as a meddlesome interloper in the matter.
More details soon.