Olusola Fabiyi and Ogbonnaya Ikokwu
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has alleged that Mr. Uche Ogah is desperate to become the governor to get immunity against twelve impending criminal charges against him in some courts in Lagos State.
Ikpeazu said this while reacting to the issuance of Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission to Ogah.
He said, “We are baffled by the urgency and the desperation to bounce into the government and when put side by side with the various criminal charges which border on different kinds of things which are subsisting in various courts in Lagos State against this same person, it becomes a little bit clearer why the desperation in the first place; (it’s) probably just to get a veil of immunity just to run away from the certainty of the court’s decision for or against him as it were. “What is on trial is our democracy; it is not about me as a person, but it is about the will of the people of Abia State. And why it is very difficult for the Abia people to accept it is that everyone knows that I have been working for the government in this environment.
“My last duty post was (in) the Abia State Environmental Protection agency and for anybody to say that I have problems with my tax, it will be strange to our people because they know I was working for the government and the government was paying me.
“The Board of Internal Revenue, whose duty it is to assess and levy tax has come out with the document and said it was issued by them and if there is any question to be asked, the BIR is the one to answer the question.
“I want to assure the people that this illegality will not stand but I will test it through the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“I want to dissuade the rumours that are making the round that some people are sponsoring this injustice against our state because we understand the current position of the government at the federal level against corruption and it cannot support somebody battling to wear the veil of immunity just because the person wants to run away from the certainty of justice.” The governor expressed surprise at the turn of events after he had filed an appeal to the judgement obtained by Ogah against him before an Abuja Federal High Court, which had annulled his election based on tax receipts.
He said, “Even if it was a death sentence that was passed on me, I don’t think I deserved to be executed without my right of appeal and that right is undeniable and fundamental.”
He described the court judgement as a temporary set-back and a plan to ambush the mandate which the people freely gave him in April 2015.
Ikpeazu said there was a court order restraining the state chief judge or any other legal officer in the country from swearing in Ogah, adding that he was still the governor.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the Abia State House Assembly, led by Mr. Martin Azubuike and other PDP faithful in the state, has assured Ikpeazu of their support during a solidarity visit.
However, efforts to speak with Ogah were unsuccessful as he could not be reached for comments as of the time of filing this report. In a related development, INEC has confirmed that it was served with a copy of the appeal filed by the Ikpeazu to challenge his removal from office by an Abuja court.
The appeal was sequel to the victory secured in court by Ogah, which ordered the commission to issue him with a Certificate of Return immediately.
Justice Okon Abang had on Monday found Ikpeazu guilty of not presenting correct tax certificates along with his forms submitted to the electoral body.
The judge held that Ikpeazu, who was declared the winner of the PDP governorship primary in the state, ought to have been disqualified by the party.
However, many lawyers have queried the rationale behind the issuance of the certificate to Ogah, when the governor had appealed the ruling.
The commission, however, said the appeal filed by the governor did not contain a stay of execution of the high court judgement.
The Deputy Director of Publicity and Voter Education of INEC, Mr. Nick Dazang, said the commission didn’t do anything wrong by issuing the certificate.
He said, “Yes, he did (the governor served us with the notice of appeal). However, it (the appeal) did not contain a motion or order of stay of execution.
“In this circumstance and given INEC’s resolve to obey all subsisting court orders, it had no recourse as a responsible regulatory body/commission than to issue the Certificate of Return to Mr. Ogah. Recall that the High Court had earlier ordered INEC to comply forthwith.”