The appeal court in Abuja has set aside the judgment of Okon Abang of the federal high court sacking Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia state on June 27, calling it “a rape of democracy”.
In a series of judgements on six appeals by Okezie Ikpeazu, Uche Ogah, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Friday Nwosu, the five-member panel of judges led by Morenikeji Ogunwumiju faulted the technicalities to which Abang arrived at his judgement.
Ogah, who had the second highest number of votes at the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary election that produced Ikpeazu as governorship candidate, had argued at the trial court that Ikpeazu evaded taxes and was not fit to hold elective office.
On that basis, Abang ordered the removal of Ikpeazu for submitting false information to the PDP in the course of the party’s primary election.
He also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare Ogah winner of the primary election.
But at the appeal court on Thursday, Ogunwumiju said Abang deliberately ignored examining the tax documents which were tendered to his court as exhibits.
“The trial judge stated that the exhibits were not for his consideration, in the absence of his consideration of the contents of the documents, it would amount to the deliberate avoidance on the implication of the acknowledgement,” she ruled.
“It is my humble view that his lordship committed great violence against one of the pillars of our criminal justice. Judges don’t work at the tax office or know how they issue receipts and clearances.”
She said based on the tax act, the court was bound to the assessment of the Abia tax office which has documents of the governor that has not been faulted.
“With the greatest respect to the learned trial judge there was this musgrave in his judgment that the tax clearance receipt etc were in quote unknown to law. The learned trying judge kept on saying indulgent and quote unknown to law,” the judge said.
“After reading his judgment several times I was struck with amazement, in the circumstances brought before his lordship, he could throw about such loaded words as forging and then turn around to find out there is no forgery or fraud in the tax documents.”
The judge, while stating that it would be a “rape” on democracy to remove Ikpeazu as governor because the Abia people voted him into office, said: “That cannot be justice in the circumstances of this case.
“I am in view that this issue be resolved in the favour of the appellant, having resolved nine issues in favour of the appellant, having also resolved issue two against the appellant (Ogah) and issues three, four and five in favour of the appellant (Ikpeazu). The appeal subsists. The judgment of Hon. Justice Okon Abang is hereby set aside.”