Black Market Court Judgement Against Okezie Ikpeazu By Chinyemike Torti

Okezie Ikpeazu with His Deputy Hon Udo Okochukwu

Following the dubious decision of the Abuja Federal High Court, On Monday, June 27, 2016, to relieve Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of his well earned mandate, concerned stakeholders and informed legal pundits are beginning to wonder if the objective and extraordinary powers invested in the bench, which demands a high standard of behavior, intelligence, knowledge of the law, equity, ethics and fairness is not been assailed.
Judges are important judicial officials whose authority reaches every corner of society as they resolve disputes between people, institutions with the Wisdom of Solomon, interpret and apply the law by which we live. 

Judges must have the capacity to undertake in-depth legal research, able to write decisions that are clear and cogent that will stand up to close scrutiny

Through that process, they define our rights and responsibilities, determine the distribution of vast amounts of public and private resources, and direct the actions of officials in other branches of government.

The “learned judge” over reached himself and did not seem to distinguish between law and politics. Removing a Governor, in a knee jerk and whimsical manner is a non starter.This judgment is said to be predicated on section 24 (1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act. According to the court, the governor did not qualify to contest the election ab initio and PDP was wrong to have presented him as a candidate, on the unverified accusation of tax evasion/

 On these grounds, he was asked to surrender his mandate to Mr. Sampson Uche Ogah.
To be sure no statute demands the payment of tax as a sine qua non for vying for any election in Nigeria.

 If Dr Okezie Ikpeazu on his own volition did fulfill this obligation on his own merits, must it be an avenue for a legal ambush or political chicanery. Noteworthy to mention is, that Dr. Ikpeazu did not prepare the tax papers. Like any other applicant, he applied to the Inspector of taxes at the Board of Internal Revenue to issue him tax receipts and clearance for the previous three years. They extracted and processed his records from the various department and agencies of government where he had done duty tours, during the period under review. The Inspector of tax, computed the figures and issued the document.

He had no business with how the tax papers were made or how the entries were posted. It is therefore very ridiculous to posit that he “cooked” his tax documents. The issuing authority confirmed that they were responsible for the document and its contents. If Dr. Ikpeazu had prepared the tax papers himself or fabricated the signature on an otherwise genuine receipt, then there would have been a case to answer.

So much heavy weather was made about the so called many “lies” of Ikpeazu. And now you want to ask what are the elements of falsehood embedded in the tax papers ? They had angued him that the serial numbers on the tax receipts were dodgy because the three years were written in the same document same Day

Dr. Ikpeazu was on the PAY AS YOU EARN {PAYEE} scheme; and it is standard practice that tax certificates are only issued when requested. Consequently the years of a client’s tax coverage will be written sequentially on the same booklet and so the question of how separate years were captured in the same booklet does not arise. Second it is a universally accepted practice that every tax year by convention ends on 31st December. If you requisitioned, for your tax clearance certificate for 2015 as we speak, it will be dated 31st Dec. 2015; but where you asked to be assessed for 2016 for extracted in July same year. The endorsement will bear 31st December 2016 signature. That 31st December of a particular year happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday which is a non-working day does not invalidate the document.

One would have thought, that an effort to unravel the truth by the court, the judge should have deployed a sincere mix of forensic tools of interrogation of witnesses, cross examination etc would have been enabled.

Since there was a script been played out, a different tool that would wrong foot Ikpeazu ‘s matter came in handy. Ogah’s legal team adopted the legal shenanigan of originating summons. This is a process of the Federal High Court rules adopted, if the issue has to be in the realm of interpreting the constitution, laws or any document, matter that is not contentious, in which there is no need to call witnesses. A hot button issue, like this matter, should have called up the Abia state Inspector of Tax, by way of a writ of summons as a witness to ascertain or deny the veracity of the papers in question. That is how the Judge erred profusely.

 His ruling also was further desecrated when he degenerated from the sublime to the ridiculous when he further anchored his decision on two platforms,derived from the Rotimi Amaechi versus Omehia case, which the Electoral Act ,section 141 had rendered otiose.

Not done yet,he proceeded to make consequential order,which was was beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. Asking INEC to issue a certificate with immediate effect betrayed the ulterior motives of the forces, beating the tom tom drum for the Uturu pretender to the throne, who shamefacedly agreed to dance naked in the village square.

Under 48 hours, after the nebulous ruling, INEC hastily issued a certificate to the oil and gas mogul, even when the legal team of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu had filed a notice of appeal and stay of execution. The geezer flew into Owerri airport with hoodlums en route to Umuahia to effect an illegal change of government.

In the words of the cerebral and erudite Constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) ,he said the ruling was hogwash, unnatural, curious and questionable. It constitutes a blatant breach of the hallowed doctrine of “lis pendes”. See Govt of Lagos state vs Ojukwu. What is the hurry about it when the sitting governor has already appealed with a motion for stay of execution? The certificate is dead on arrival, as dead as “dodo”, having regard to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act.

 As soon as INEC became aware of the appeal and motion for stay of execution, it should have been guided by discretion and waited. The judgement was poorly researched and would be reversed at the Court of Appeal. Ozekhome postulated that, in law, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu remains the governor until the appellate appeals are exhausted at the Supreme Court . This is a constitutional right.

Beyond all this,is the character, integrity of the said judge notorious for disreputable acts of judicial rascality. Deep industry sources aver that the judge was nearly sacked by the national body that disciplines judges because of many similar unclear, corrupt and ambiguous judgments. He was lucky to get warning while some of his colleagues were retired or terminated. He is from the same old Cross River state with late judge that cancelled Nigeria presidential election in mid night of a day preceding the June 12 1993.

It is hoped that the National Judicial Council, would take out draconian sanctions on this judge, to avoid a situation where he has become a veritable and ready tool in the hands of desperate politicians. Kudos to Governor Ikpeazu who handled the matter with aplomb., otherwise Abia state would have been in flames by now.

Chinyemike Torti, is a public policy analyst and management consultant.


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