By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday, dismissed a suit that sought the removal of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from office over his alleged complicity in tax fraud.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices, threw out the appeal that was filed by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and governorship aspirant in the state, Sir Friday Nwosu.
In the lead judgment that was prepared by Justice Amina Augie but read by Justice Sidi Bage, the Supreme Court, held that Nwosu’s appeal was frivolous and grossly lacked in merit.
As a punitive measure, the apex court awarded N4million cost against the appellant who it said should pay N1m to each of the four defendants in the appeal marked SC/693/2017.
Aside governor Ikpeazu, other Respondents in the appeal were the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Dr. Samson Ogah.
The apex court upheld the earlier verdict of the Court of Appeal which also refused to sack governor Ikpeazu from office over his alleged submission of irregular tax papers to INEC prior to the 2015 governorship election in Abia State.
It will be recalled that Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on June 27, 2016, sacked governor Ikpeazu from office over the alleged tax fraud.
Justice Abang further directed 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 for the 2015 poll.
However, Nwosu went to court, contending that based on the high court judgment, he should be the one to take over from Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia State.
Nwosu told the court that Ogah not only refused to sign result of the PDP primary election, but equally condemned the entire exercise as being fraudulent.
He argued that Ogah who came second at the primaries, having failed to sign or accept the outcome of the PDP gubernatorial primary election, ought not to benefit from it.
The appellant maintained that he was the only qualified candidate to assume the governorship seat having scored the third highest number of votes at the primaries and also signed the result sheet.
His argument was however dismissed on Friday by the Supreme Court panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes Vivour.
A five-man panel of Justices of the appellate court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju had on August 18, 2016, nullified the high court verdict that sacked Ikpeazu and recognised Mr. Ogah as duly elected governor of Abia State.
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 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.