As CJN blasts politicians for interferring in judicial process
From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja, OKEY SAMPSON, Aba and Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
The Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the election of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia state after holding that he was properly nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its candidate for the 2015 election.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on Friday, the apex court dismissed the three separate appeals filed against the governor by Samson Ogah and Friday Nwosu, as lacking in merit.
Justice Musa Datijo Mohammed who wrote the lead judgment held that the appellants failed to prove their allegation that the tax clearance of the governor was forged. His brother Justice, Justice Ejembi Eko, read his judgment.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen made a shocking revelations of how an attempt was made by some unnamed politicians to bribe Justices of the court to write a favourable judgement.
Justice Onnoghen who made the revelation in his post judgment comment said the incident would be investigated.
The Supreme Court held that tax of civil servants is normally deducted from source and being a civil servant at the time, Ikpeazu’s tax was deducted from source.
It was the position of the court that if there are any irregularities, it is not the governor that should be held responsible. The court held that Ogah failed to make available before it the Peoples Democratic Party’s guideline around which his case was built.
It also held that Ikpeazu as then a civil servant could hardly be found to have flouted tax payments when his tax deductions were at source.
The apex court, however, disagreed with the appeal court on one issue, holding that contrary to the lower court’s decision, the suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja was rightly commenced by an originating summons.
In his post-judgment comment, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, noted that there was a “security breach” in the course of preparing the judgment.
Warning politicians to allow the judiciary to do its job without interference, he said there were attempts by them to use court officials to get to know Justices of the Supreme Court that would prepare the lead judgment and what the court’s decision would be.
The CJN said the incident would be investigated and those culpable would be sanctioned. The court awarded a cost of N250,000 in favour of the governor and the PDP.
The legal battle to unseat Governor Ikpeazu became intense after the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal which, last year upturned the judgment by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja which sacked Governor Ikpeazu from office.
The appellate court, in the unanimous judgment vacated the June 27, 2016 judgment of Justice Abang and held that the he erred in law and that the judgment occasioned a miscarriage of justice against Ikpeazu.
Justice Helen Ogunwumiju who delivered the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal, held that Justice Abang “committed a grave violence against one of the pillars of Justice” relating to fair hearing, adding that Abang placed the law on its head when it directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Ogah.
While upholding Ikpeazu’s appeal, the court awarded N100, 000 cost against Ogah and resolved all the five issues raised in the appeal in favour of Ikpeazu.
Justice Abang had in his judgment delivered on June 27, 2016 sacked Ikpeazu for allegedly disclosing false information in relation to his tax clearance details to INEC in his form nominating him as the candidate of the PDP for the 2015 governorship election in the state.
The judge, also in the said judgment, ordered the governor’s rival, Ogah, who was the first runner-up in the primary that produced Ikpeazu as the candidate of the PDP to takeover, adding that, Ikpeazu was not qualified to be PDP’s candidate having disclosed false information to INEC in violation of Article 14(a) of the PDP Electoral Guidelines and Section 31 of the Electoral Act.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Governor Ikpeazu approached the Court of Appeal, praying it to set aside Justice Abang’s judgment which sacked him from the Abia State Government House.
But the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered yesterday affirmed the election of Governor Ikpeazu, saying that he was validly nominated by the PDP to fly the flag of the party in Abia state.
…Umahi, South East PDP hail Judgment
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state and the National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South East zone, Austin Umahi have
described the supreme court judgment that affirmed the election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state as triumph of good over evil.
Umahi in his congratulatory message to Governor Ikpeazu and the entire people of Abia state described the victory as expected especially when
it was obvious that there seemed to be conspiracy in high places to scuttle the mandate the people of the state freely gave to Ikpeazu in 2015 governorship election in the state.
He described the Supreme Court judgment as a landmark victory for democracy in Nigeria and Abia state in particular, adding that
Governor Ikpeazu had passed through lots of distractions since he assumed office.
“I congratulate you my dear brother on this landmark victory at the apex court today (yesterday). Your victory was a clear confirmation of
your acceptance by the people of the state hence, your overwhelming victory at the polls. Your election was greeted with so many
litigation and in all, God upheld your hand high in victory and today, you stand tall before your foes and they came trembling before your God”
“Abia and Ebonyi state share so many things in common and have been united in our quest for collective development. Since the current
administrations, we have seen the enormous challenges of navigating the ship of development through the turbulent waters and today, there are tremendous successes in Ebonyi and Abia states as we have obliterated the cog in the wheels of our development”
Also in his reaction, the National Vice Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South East zone, Chief Austin Umahi described the Supreme Court judgment that upheld Ikpeazu election as confirmation of victory for the masses and PDP as a party.
Chief Umahi said the judgment has further vindicated the position of the party that there is no other political party that can win election in the zone other than PDP.
“The judgment of the apex court on the Abia governorship election is a welcome development and we as a party are very happy that today, the judiciary has prided itself as the true and last hope for the common man. We accept the judgment as the confirmation of the will of the people which they exercised freely in favour of our party, PDP and Governor Ikpeazu in 2015 governorship election”
“We wish to thank all Abians and members of our great party, PDP for their steadfastness during the trying moments when the mandate given to our party was being put to trial by some elements that wanted to achieve victory through the backdoor. We are launching a comprehensive rebranding of PDP in the zone and we are optimistic we shall reclaim Anambra and Imo states for PDP”.
… Jubilation in Aba, as Fayose hails Ikpeazu
There was jubilation in parts of Abia state yesterday especially Aba after the Supreme Court reaffirmed Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu the governor of the State..
The court verdict brings to a close the two year old legal battle between Governor Ikpeazu, Dr. Uche Ogah and Chief Friday Nwosu all of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) respectively.
What the day would look like started to unfold when as earlier as 10:40 am; supporters of Ikpeazu began the throwing of bangers otherwise known as “knockouts” in different parts of Aba and its environs.
From the Ogbor Hill axis of the city to Osisioma and from Ohanku area to Ariaria, it was the same celebrations galore by the governor’s supporters who saw Ikpeazu’s victory as an act of God.
Some of the celebrating supporters of the governor were seen on East Street driving round the town in a motorcade and singing the governor’s praises.
Others were seen in some joints, drinking beer and expressing happiness that the governor has finally triumphed over his opponents.
Immediately after the verdict was delivered, Gov Ikpeazu came into Aba where he was scheduled to attend a church service to thank God for what He has done for him; but later changed his mind and drove straight to his home town of Umuobiakwa, near Aba to celebrate with his people.
Meanwhile, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state has described yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment as victory for Ikpeazu and shame to Justice Okon Abang.
In a press statement issued at Ado-Ekiti yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, Fayose told Ikpeazu that the victory was a call to more dedicated service to the people of Abia State.
“Your Excellency must more than ever before continue to make a difference in the lives of your people. You must continue to put a wide gap between your good self and the political charlatans who have now got to their tether’s end.
“The Supreme Court, where they have now failed, is the last bus stop for them. They also failed at the Court of Appeal. It is instructive that the only court where your opponents won was at the high court of Justice Okon Abang, who has become notorious for “Jankara” and “Oluwole” judgments.
“ It is a shame that a man like Abang, who has been roundly lampooned again and again by his colleagues and superiors as a disgrace to the Bench, still answers the name of a judge and continues to sit on the Bench.”