By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Tuesday, reserved its judgment on appeal challenging the removal of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from office over alleged tax fraud.
A five-man panel of Justices of the apex court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju, adjourned the matter for judgment after it heard six separate appeals that arose from verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja that removed Ikpeazu.
Trial Justice Okon Abang had on June 27, ordered Ikpeazu to immediately vacate the governorship seat, even as he directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Mr. Sampson Ogah who came second in the gubernatorial primary election the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, conducted in Abia State on December 8, 2014.
Justice Abang said he was satisfied that Ikpeazu perjured by giving false information in the Form CF001 and documents accompanying it, which he submitted to both PDP and the INEC.
Meantime, both Ikpeazu and the PDP, through their respective team of lawyers, on Tuesday, urged the appellate court to set-aside the high court judgement which they said has occasioned a huge miscarriage of justice.
Arguing his appeal, Ikpeazu, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, insisted that Justice Abang acted beyond his powers and misdirected himself in law.
According to the him, “The trial judge erred in law when he ordered as a consequential order that the appellant vacates his office as the Governor of Abia state immediately when there was no jurisdiction in the Federal High Court to remove, vacate the occupier of the office of the governor of a state or order the removal of such officer after the unsuccessful challenge of the result of the election at the Tribunal and swearing in of the appellant as the governor.”
He contended that the only power, authority and order exercisable by the trial court was to disqualify a candidate from contesting election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral Act 2010.
Ikpeazu faulted Justice Abang for arriving at the conclusion that he did not pay his tax for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013, as at when due.