By Wahab Akanji, AbujaÂ
Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which removed him as the state governor over tax forgery.
In suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/71/2016, Justice Okon Abang had on June 27, 2016, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue Certificate of Return to Dr. Uche Ogah, who polled the second highest number of votes in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary election.
In his notice of appeal dated July 4, 2016, Dr. Ikpeazu through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, raised 50 grounds of appeal and expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the lower court.
He therefore, joined the following as respondents: First, Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah; second, Peoples Democratic Party; third, Independent National Electoral Commission; fourth, Sir Friday Nwanozie Nwosu.
His first ground of appeal was that the trial judge erred in law and came to a wrong decision in holding that the appellant was ineligible to participate in the primary election of the 2nd respondent by reason of presenting false information to the 3rd respondent in INEC Form CF001 and consequently granting all the reliefs claimed by the 1st respondent in his originating summons.
According to the second ground of appeal, the lower court equally erred in law and reached a perverse decision when after finding thus:Â â€œ The cause of action arose in this matter when the 1st and 2nd defendants forwarded Form CF001 containing alleged false information to the Independent National Electoral Commissionâ€. It went ahead to disqualify the appellant from being a candidate at the 2nd respondentâ€™s primary election and declared the 1st respondent as the winner of the primary election.
On his third ground of appeal, Dr. Ikpeazu noted that the lower court erred in law and acted without jurisdiction when it purported to enforce/apply the provisions of the PDP Electoral Guidelines for primary elections 32014 in determining the originating summons before it without the PDP Guidelines being put in evidence before it.
In his fourth ground of appeal, Ikepazu pointed out that the lower court also erred in law and reached a perverse decision when it held in respect of the Supreme Court decision in Ekagbara v, Ikpeazu (2016) 4 NWLR (pt. 1503) 541 thus: â€œ In fact in the above cited case, Supreme Court in a way departed from its earlier decision in Kharki v. PDPâ€¦ Supreme Court also held that this court has jurisdiction to entertain a suit questioning the qualification of an aspirant in a primary election by a fellow aspirant when the aspirant whose qualification is being questioned did not pay tax as at when due or where there are lapses in the tax paper of such aspirantâ€¦ In Ekagbara v. Ikpeazu (supra), the Supreme Court also held that it does not really matter that this will involve the examination of tax administration in Abia State of Nigeria.â€
In his fifth ground of appeal, the appellant observed that trial judge erred in law and came to a perverse decision when he asked thus: â€œIt is either that the information are false or correct, I do not think it is a case of forgery. I do not think facts are in dispute. Even if the affidavits of the parties are in dispute, they are not in my view in dispute on material factsâ€¦ It is for the 1st to 2nd defendants to show that the information contained in documents attached to Form CF001 submitted to Independent National Electoral Commission are not false â€¦ I think the court can conveniently use the affidavit evidence placed before it to resolve issues in controversy. This suit was properly commenced by an originating summonâ€.
In the seventeenth ground of appeal, Ikpeazu observed that the lower court misdirected itself and reached a perverse decision when it held that the appellant presented false information to INEC by reason of the alleged differences between the tax receipts and the tax certificate with respect to the tax return 2013.
According to the last ground of appeal, Ikpeazu stressed that the decision of the lower court was/is against the weight of evidence, and therefore sought the following relief from the Court of Appeal, the first being, an order allowing this appeal. The second, an order setting aside all the main and consequential orders made and granted by the lower court and the last, an order dismissing or striking out the amended originating summons in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/71/2016.