Appeal Court Restores Ikpeazu As Abia Governor | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Appeal Court Restores Ikpeazu As Abia Governor

Ikpeazu
Posted: Aug 19, 2016 at 4:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

* Ikpeazu Dedicates Victory To Masses

 

Nicholas Uwerunonye; Emeka Okafor and Ben Duru

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has restored Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as the duly elected governor of Abia State just as the court set aside the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court which on June 27 removed the governor from office.

The Federal High Court removed Ikpeazu from office on account of supplying false tax information to obtain his party nomination for the 2015 governorship election.

The appellate court also voided the legal action which brought about the judgment of Justice Abang on the ground that the originating summons relied upon by the judge to give the judgment did not comply with any known law in the country.

Justice Ibrahim Shata Bdliya, who delivered one of the lead judgments, in an appeal filed by Ikpeazu, held that Justice Abang erred in law by assuming jurisdiction in an originating summons that was not signed by any identifiable legal practitioner among the three lawyers that issued the said summons.

In the unanimous judgment of the court, the Federal High Court judgment delivered on June 27  was said not to have been competent having been based on an originating summons that was invalid, null and void.

Apart from not signing the originating summons, the Appeal Court held that the suit filed by Dr. Samson Ogah did not disclose any cause of action because it was filed even before the appellant (Ikpeazu) submitted his documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Bdliya agreed with counsel to the governor, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that it was not the duty of the court to begin to search for the signatory to the originating summons to authenticate it as required by law.

Besides, the Appeal Court also held that although the originating summons was later amended, but said that an amended originating summons has no capacity to cure a defective and incurably bad originating summons being the foundation of the suit.

The Appeal Court further agreed with Olanipekun that Justice Abang erred in law by making findings at the interlocutory level of case by taking a stance on issues in the main suit.

“He ought not to have given the final findings at the interlocutory level and his conclusion at the interlocutory level was a breach of fair hearing against the appellant (Ikpeazu), who was not given opportunity to use the substantive suit to prove his case”, the court said.

The court also upheld the submission of Olanipekun that because of the circumstances of the issues in the suit, the suit ought to have been instituted through the use of writ where witnesses can be called to make clarifications on the disputed issues, rather than using originating summons that does not require the calling of witnesses.

In another judgment by Justice Helen Morenikeji Ogunwumiju, the appellate court held that Justice Abang raped democracy in his order that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should issue a certificate of return to Dr. Samson Ogah when there was no evidence of forgery of criminality against the appellant.

According to the court, the judgment of Justice Abang was grossly erroneous because it was based on inadequacy of tax receipt that cannot be visited on the appellant (Ikpeazu).

“After reading through the judgment several times, I was amazed at how the trial judge arrived at his conclusion of perjury against the appellant when there was no evidence of forgery. To say the least, his findings are ridiculous.

“The judge must have sat in his chamber, unilaterally assessed and computed the tax of the appellant and came to the conclusion that he did not pay the required tax. But let me say that courts are not allowed to speculate as the trial judge has done in the instant case.

“The trial judge spoke from both sides of his mouth when in one breath, he claimed that he based his findings on supply of false information and in another breath, he came to the conclusion that the appellant in this matter committed perjury, even when there was no allegation of forgery and no allegation that he did not pay tax.”

Justice Ogunwumiju also agreed with Olanepekun that the Federal High Court judge turned the head of the law upside down in his conclusion that it was the appellant that should bear the burden of proof on the allegation made by Ogah.

“With respect, we disagree with him (judge) in this conclusion because it is the person that makes allegation of falsehood that must prove it.”

The Appeal Court also held that Justice Abang erred when he imported the phrase ‘as at when do’ into the PDP 2014 guidelines.

“The judge would not have imported the phrase into his findings if he had seen the copy of the PDP guideline. In this case, he violated the PDP guideline.

“From whatever angle one looks at the judgment of the trial judge, the decision of his court was grossly erroneous. The inadequacies of the tax receipt cannot be visited on Ikpeazu who scored the highest votes in the 2015 governorship election as doing so will amount to rape of democracy.”

In all, the Appeal Court set aside the judgment of Justice Abang delivered on June 27 for being a nullity and a miscarriage of justice that must not be allowed in law.

The court also awarded various sums of money against Ogah as cost.

Meanwhile, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu says his victory at the Appeal Court is a victory for the common man that will re-invigorate him to render more service to Abia State.

He described the judgment as victory for the common man who voted him into office and thanked God and the judiciary for affirming his electoral victory.

“We are grateful to the judiciary that has stood as the last hope of the common man. Without the judiciary what would have been the hope of the son of a poor teacher who became governor at the mercy of God and Abia people. It would have been difficult”, he said.

He thanked all those who prayed for him and urged them to continue in their prayers, saying “without prayer we can do nothing”.

Following the ruling of the Appeal Court on Thursday, there was wild jubilation in Umuahia, Aba and other cities in the state. Indigenes were seen singing and dancing, while praising God for a deserved victory for the governor.