Court orders Ikpeazu to vacate office as gov of Abia
•Asks INEC to install Ogah
•Governor files appeal
A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State to vacate office with immediate effect.
Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling yesterday, also ordered the governor to hand over to Mr. Samson Ogah, owner of Masters Energy, who came second in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primaries in the state.
The judge further ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to Ogah who contested the governorship ticket with Ikpeazu.
The court held that Ikpeazu was guilty of tax evasion and was therefore not qualified to have contested the 2015 governorship election in the state, which held in April 2015.
Two members of the PDP had accused Ikpeazu of failing to pay Personal Income Tax as and 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 the suit dated December 22, 2014 and instituted at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Obasi Eke and Chukwuemeka Mba, had asked the PDP and INEC to disqualify Ikpeazu from contesting the governorship election.
The plaintiffs contended that 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 defendant (Ikpeazu), having failed and/or refused to pay his personal income tax promptly as and 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 Ikpeazu as candidate for governor in the 2015 election.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs included an order barring INEC from accepting Ikpeazu as the PDP’s candidate for the 2015 election.
They also requested a consequential order that the aspirant at the PDP primary election of December 8, 2014, who polled the second highest number of votes cast should be pronounced the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship polls.
Reacting to the judgement, Ikpeazu told Abians not to panic, but to remain calm, saying he had directed his lawyers to quickly file an appeal against it.
The Supreme Court had declared Ikpezu as the duly elected governor in the 2015 elections based on the petition filed against his victory by his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) rival, Dr. Alex Otti.
Ikpeazu, speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Enyi Appolos, stated that before his election, he was an appointee of the Umuahia government from 2011 to 2014 to serve as the general manager of Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS), and later first deputy general manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) for Aba and Environs.
He added that before his resignation in October 2014 to contest the governorship election, his taxes were within the period deducted at source, and that 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 payment receipts for the period in question.
Appolos said Ikpeazu, according to law, remained the governor and would await the final determination of the matter by the appellate courts.