Ikpeazu v Ogah: Supreme Court adjourns for judgement
Contenders to the seat are the incumbent, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, and his challenger, Dr. Samson Okechukwu Ogah, who are both of the Peoples Democratic Party, but locked in a legal battle on who was the qualified candidate for the party in the 2015 Abia State governorship election
The Supreme Court will on May 12 deliver final judgment that will put to rest the long drawn legal tussle in the Abia State governorship seat.
Contenders to the seat are the incumbent, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, and his challenger, Dr. Samson Okechukwu Ogah, who are both of the Peoples Democratic Party, but locked in a legal battle on who was the qualified candidate for the party in the 2015 Abia State governorship election.
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, announced the Apex Court decision to give judgment on that date in Abuja after hearing submissions from parties involved in the matter.
At the hearing of the appeal filed by Ogah, the court was urged to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which last year upheld the nomination of Ikpeazu.
The Counsel to the appellant, Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), in his argument, submitted vehemently that the case of his client was that Ikpeazu was not qualified to have contested the 2015 Abia State governorship election on the platform of PDP on the grounds that he supplied false information in the document used to secure clearance for the election.
The counsel maintained that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it based its judgment in favour of the governor on the effect that Ogah founded his case on perjury against the defendant and that the perjury being a criminal matter was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Iziyon insisted that his client never raised any criminal matter against Ikpeazu, but only claimed that the respondent submitted false information in his form CF001, which by the provision of section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 made him ineligible to stand for election
Iziyon further argued that the Federal High Court, which removed Ikpeazu from office found that he had supplied false information in respect of his tax papers that were dated on a Saturday, which is a non-working day officially.
Iziyon, therefore, urged the court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of the matter and upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, which found Ikpeazu culpable of supplying false information in his document.
In his objection to the appeal, Ikpeazu, represented by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
Olanipekun argued that the trial court miscarried justice in its judgment because the PDP guidelines and its constitution, which would have aided the court to arrive at a just conclusion, were not before the court, hence the trial judge based his judgment on extraneous considerations.
Specifically Olanipekun said the trial court went out of its way when it assumed that Ikpeazu did not pay tax because the tax papers were dated Saturday.
The SAN also said that it was wrong of the trial court to have persecuted and crucified his client for the offence of perjury for a public servants whose tax was deducted from source and confirmed by the Abia State tax officers in their affidavit evidence.
Olanipekun maintained that even if there were inconsistencies in the form CF001 of his client, that cannot be used to disqualify Ikpeazu because the provisions of section 31 of the Electoral Act cannot override the provisions of Section 177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution, which both deal with qualification to stand for election.
He therefore urged the apex court to uphold the findings of the Court of Appeal, which set aside the judgment of the trial court on account of miscarriage of justice and having been based on a criminal matter that was not proved behind reasonable doubt.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, represented by Alhassan Umar, also urged the dismissal of the appeal to allow the judgment of the Appeal Court in the matter to stand.
Justice Onnoghen, who led four other Justices of the court, after listening to arguments from all parties, announced that the court would give final judgment in the matter on May 12.
It will be recalled that Ogah, who came second in the governorship primary election of the PDP of 2014, had approached the Federal High Court to nullify the nomination and sponsorship of Governor Ikpeazu on the grounds that he supplied false information in relation to his tax papers.
Justice Okon Abang had in his judgment agreed with Ogah and nullified the nomination of the governor and replaced him with Ogah as the qualified PDP candidate for the 2015 governorship election in Abia State.
The Appeal Court, however, in its judgment disagreed with Abang on the grounds that the case of Ogah was based on criminal matter, which was not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.