COURT ORDERS ABIA GOV, IKPEAZU, TO VACATE OFFICE
According to a media report in Punch website as browsed from THE AUTHORITY affirmed that the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, to vacate office immediately for submitting false information to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, for the party’s governorship primary in December 2014.
Justice Okon Abang in a judgment on Monday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately issue a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Uche Ogah, who polled the second highest number of votes in the primary.
From the report reaching our news desk not quite long proves that Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has affirmed that he is still in charge in the state – despite a court order directing his removal from office.
He urged the people of the state to remain calm and go about their lawful activities, saying he has instructed his lawyers to lodge an appeal against the judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which directed his removal from office over alleged tax evasion.
In a swift reaction to the court’s verdict that he should vacate his office, Governor Ikpeazu urged the people not to panic as he was still in charge of the affairs of the state.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Enyinnaya Appolos, the governor said he had faith in the judiciary and the rule of law, adding that he would appeal against the judgement.
The statement read in part: “The Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has called on Abians not to panic, but remain calm over the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered today in favour of Mr. Uche Ogah against him, in the case of alleged falsification of tax receipts.
“Governor Ikpeazu, who has faith in the judiciary and rule of law, has instructed his lawyers to file an appeal immediately against the said judgment”.
The governor noted that he duly met his tax obligations as an appointee of the Abia State government from 2011 to 2014, when he served as the General Manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS), and first Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) Aba and environs respectively, before his resignation in October 2014 to contest the governorship election in the state.
He said that within the period, his taxes were deducted at source, and when he had need of his tax clearance certificate in 2014, he applied to the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue, and was duly issued with his tax receipts for the period in question.
Justice Abang had yesterday ordered Ikpeazu to leave office for submitting a false tax clearance certificate to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the governorship primaries in December 2014.
Delivering a judgment in the pre-election suit, Justice Okon ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a certificate of return to Ogah, who polled the second highest number of votes in the PDP primary election held on December 8, 2014.
He also ordered the PDP to forward Ogah’s name to INEC as the lawful candidate for the state’s governorship election held in April 2015.
The court held that Ikpeazu did not pay taxes as at when due between 2011 and 2013, and that the governor was issued tax receipts on the same day for the various years he defaulted.
There was, however, an uneasy calm at the Abia Government House, Umuahia, as the news of the governor’s removal filtered into the state.
As soon as the social media broke the news about 10am, the mood in the seat of power changed as some government officials were seen discussing the development in hushed tones.
But Ikpeazu’s timely statement brought calm to the state.
Meanwhile, there was jubilation at the Umuahia Campaign Headquarters of Uche Ogah located at Umuwaya by Item Street.
When our correspondent visited the office to capture the mood, his supporters, workers of the office and some passers-by sympathetic to his cause were seen celebrating the judgement.
The PDP has, however, expressed concerns over the development and vowed to support Ikpeazu until the judgment is upturned.
The state PDP Chairman, Chief Johnson Onuigbo, told newsmen: “Naturally, we are worried but there is no cause for alarm because the situation is under control.
“We are solidly with the governor and we believe that the Appeal Court will nullify the judgment”.
He said that Ikpeazu was the party’s authentic candidate at the election and that his mandate could not be stolen midway.
Asked if the party had plans to reach Ogah for a political solution, he said: “That is in the womb of time.”