Posted by FactNews | 7 years ago | 2,723 times
The Supreme Court will on May 12 2017 deliver final judgment that will put to rest the long drawn legal tussle involving the Abia State Governorship seat. Contenders to the seat are Dr Uche Ogah and Chief F N Nwosu who contested for the People Democratic Party (PDP) ticket with the incumbent Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, over who was the qualified candidate of the party in the 2015 Abia state governorship election.
Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen, announced the Apex Court's decision to give judgment on that date in Abuja after hearing submissions from parties involved in the matter.
At the hearing of the appeal filed by Uche Ogah, the court was urged to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which upheld the nomination of Governor Ikpeazu. Counsel to the appellant, Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN) in his argument, submitted that the case of his client was that Ikpeazu was not qualified to have contested the 2015 Abia governorship election on the platform of PDP on the grounds that he supplied false information in the document used to secure clearance for the election. The counsel stated that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it based its judgment in favour of the governor on the fact that Ogah founded his case on perjury against the defendant and that the perjury being a criminal matter was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Iziyon insisted that his client never raised any criminal matter against Ikpeazu but only claimed that the respondent submitted false information in his form CF001 which by provision of section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 made him ineligible to stand for election.
Iziyon further argued that the Federal High Court, presided by Justice Okon Abang, which removed Ikpeazu from office found that he had supplied false information in respect of his tax papers some of which were marked as having being issued on a Saturday which he claimed is officially a non working day. Iziyon therefore, urged the court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of the matter and uphold the judgment of the Federal High court which found Ikpeazu culpable of supplying false information in his form CF001. In his objection to the appeal, Ikpeazu represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit. Olanipekun argued that the trial court miscarried justice in its judgment because the PDP guidelines and its constitution which would have aided the court to arrive at a just conclusion were not before the court hence the trial judge based his judgment on extraneous considerations.
Olanipekun also said that the trial court lost its way when it assumed that Ikpeazu did not pay tax because the tax papers were dated Saturday. The SAN and former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) stated that it was wrong of the trial court to have persecuted and crucified his client for the offence of perjury when he was a public servant whose tax was deducted from source as confirmed by Abia tax officers in their affidavit evidence. He further said that there was no dispute that the tax authorities issued the tax document under contention.
Olanipekun maintained that even if there were inconsistencies in the form CF001 of his client, the inconsistencies cannot be used to disqualify Ikpeazu because the provisions of section 31 of the Electoral Act cannot override the provisions of Section 177 and 182 of the 1999 constitution which both deal with qualification to stand for election. He referred the court to its recent ruling involving Governor Ayoade of Cross River State in which the Supreme Court clearly stated that the constitution, which is superior to the electoral act, defined qualification for the office of the Governor and payment of tax is not one of the qualifying variables. He therefore urged the apex court to uphold the findings of the Court of Appeal which set aside the judgment of the trial court on account of miscarriage of justice having been based on a criminal allegation that was not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required in law.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) represented by Mr. Alhassan Umar also urged the dismissal of the appeal to allow the judgment of the Appeal Court in the matter to stand. In the opinion of INEC, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria defined qualification for the office of the Governor of a state and payment of tax is not a constitutional requirement for that office. Justice Onnoghen who led four other Justices of the court, after listening to arguments from all parties, announced that the court would give final judgment in the matter on May 12.
Earlier, counsel to Chief F N Nwosu withdrew the brief of his client and was subsequently fined two hundred thousand Naira for wasting the time of the court. Also, request by the legal team of Dr Alex Otti, runner up at the general election and candidate of APGA, for proceedings to be adjourned was ruled against by the Supreme Court panel led by the acting Chief Judge of Nigeria. It will be recalled that Ogah who came second in the governorship primary election of the PDP of 2014 had approached the Federal High Court to nullify the nomination and sponsorship of Governor Ikpeazu on the grounds that he, Ikpeazu, supplied false information in relation to his tax papers. Justice Okon Abang had in his judgment of June 27th 2016 agreed with Ogah and nullified the nomination of the governor and replaced him with Ogah as the qualified PDP candidate for the 2015 governorship election in Abia. The Appeal Court, however, in its judgment of August 18 2016 disagreed with Abang on the grounds that the case of Ogah was based on criminal allegation which was not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required in law.
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