|Barr Ugochukwu Amaraizu|
At the conclusion of the People’s Democratic Party’s primaries, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu emerged as the Party’s flag bearer for the 2015 gubernatorial election. Before proceeding into the general election, two outstanding members of the party- Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah and Barr F.N Nwosu, who contested the said PDP primaries with Ikpeazu and few other candidates, filed different suits at the Federal High Court, alleging that Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu was not qualified to contest for the election by virtue of purported irregularities that exist on his TAX documents.
Neither PDP nor INEC took the matter serious upon careful examination of Ikpeazu’s tax papers. Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu participated in the election and was finally declared by INEC as the duly elected Governor of Abia State.
It was strongly rumored that some attempts were made to resolve the matter at the Party level. Whether it is true or not, it is an internal problem because members of the same party are involved. Barr F.N Nwosu did not heed to any call for reconciliation and/or was not ready to listen to any invitation for settlement out of court. He strongly believes that he has concrete evidence to crucify his kinsman in law.
Nwosu and Ogah continued the legal battle despite the fact that Dr Ikpeazu was already at a different legal excursion with Dr Alex Otti of All Progressives Grand Alliance. The men did not consider all that Ikpeazu has been able to achieve within one year in office. They did not consider the reduction in the State’s monthly allocation from the Federal Government which has posed a serious challenge to the State government in the area of payment of salaries, execution of developmental projects and all that. They prefer subjecting the State Government into unnecessary expenses that would have helped in boosting the State’s economy.
Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah relied on section 31(5) & (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 ( As Amended ) to press that Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu presented false information to INEC and therefore was not qualified to contest the election. Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja, on Monday 27th June, 2016 shocked the whole world by delivering a judgment that raised dust in the former British Colony- Nigeria. While ordering that Ogah should be issued with Certificate of Return, he also ordered that Ikpeazu should vacate the office. The Chief Judge of Abia State was directed to swear Ogah in as the duly elected Governor of Abia State, having came second in the PDP primaries.
The Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ) immediately complied with the Order of the Federal High Court irrespective of the evidence that they received both the Notice of Appeal and Motion For Stay of Execution. INEC openly denied service of the Motion For Stay of Execution. Yes! It is “elementary” that Notice of Appeal without more does not operate as a Stay. This argument has variously been canvassed by some of my learned friends who are so much interested in the matter. However, they forget that the Supreme Court has warned that once NOTICE is given to a Lower Court of a pending appeal accompanied by a Motion For Stay, the lower Court or Party should not take further steps that would tender the appeal nugatory. The Supreme Court always frowns at such attitude but people are not ready to learn.
With this development, it looked as if Ikpeazu is already out of the government house. A man whom Abians gave their mandate and was seriously fixing the State, was been distracted and/or embarrassed with a controversial judgment. It is described as such because there was no room to appeal, INEC having been ordered to carry out execution with immediate effect.
As God would have it, Justice Ahuchaogu of Osisioma High Court in Abia State intervened by issuing an ORDER restraining the Chief Judge of Abia State or any other Judicial Officer from swearing Dr Uche Ogah into the office the Governor of Abia State.
While many thought that it is over for Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, another jurisdiction of the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, yesterday, delivered a well detailed, considered and sound judgment in the suit filed by Barr F.N Nwosu against Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu. Undoubtedly, Nwosu was 100% sure of winning his case because of some irregularities in Ikpeazu’s tax documents. He approached the Federal High Court seeking Declarations that:
(1) Ikpeazu was not qualified to contest the election having presented a forged certificate.
(2) Tax papers from the Board of Internal Revenue are false by virtue of section 182(1) J of the 1999 Constitution ( As Amended )
(3) Information contained in the affidavit are false by virtue of section 31(1)-(6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 ( As Amended ) etc.
Let’s hold on a bit! It will be recalled that the Special Adviser to Uche Ogah- Mr Monday Onyekachi Ubani had argued that Ogah’s case is different from Nwosu’s case because the former relied on section 31 of the Electoral Act. It is now clear to him that Nwosu also relied on the same section of the Act and prayed the Court to declare that the information contained in Ikpeazu’s affidavit is false. For clarity sake, whether their suits are founded on FORGERY or FALSE INFORMATION, it is the purported irregularities in Ikpeazu’s tax receipts and/or certificate that prompted the two actions.
Both PDP, INEC, IKPEAZU and OGAH who are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants respectively in the matter filed preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to hear the subject matter of the suit. They all relied on section 251 of the Constitution which vested exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court on specified matters. Of a particular note is the objection raised by Ogah that he is not supposed to be a party in the Suit since he is neither an Agent of the Federal Government nor the person in whose tax papers were forged. All the objections were struck out in favour of Nwosu based on the express provisions of section 31(5) of the Electoral Act. As for Ogah, it is the Cause of Action that brought him in as can be gleaned from Nwosu’s claim and pleadings. Nwosu alleged that Ogah who came 2nd is not qualified to be sworn in having petitioned against the result of the primaries and had refused to endorse the said result.
On the main suit, the Court really heard it on the merit. The Court considered the affidavits in support of the Originating Summons, the Counter Affidavit of the Defendants and all the written submissions of Counsel for all the Parties. The Court found that there is a criminal allegation. Forgery is criminal and therefore MUST be proved beyond reasonable doubt. And the onus of proving beyond reasonable doubt is on the party ( Nwosu in this case ) who alleges that the tax documents were forged. It is also the law that the concurrence of the actus reus and mens rea that give rise to criminal liability. The learned Justice of the Federal High Court went further to define the offense of forgery by citing relevant sections of the law and decided authorities that Amaraizu could not capture immediately.
The Judge, while answering the question ” WHAT IS FORGERY ” observed that Ikpeazu is not the maker of the documents in question and has no intention of using same to mislead anybody. Again, the uncontroverted evidence of the Director of Board of Internal Revenue, Abia State left the Court with some doubts which were resolved in favor of Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu. The Court therefore held that the information supplied by Ikpeazu in his affidavit were not FALSE. The Court also said that Ikpeazu’s Tax certificate is not forged. According to him, all the analysis on payment of tax before the date of employment, payment on Saturday and receipt numbers having contradictions are MERE EXAMINATIONS carried out by the Plaintiff himself which stand at variance with the Tax Rules/Laws of Abia State as averred or stated by the Abia State Director of Board of Internal Revenue.
Finally, Barr F.N Nwosu’s suit was dismissed and the Court affirmed that Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu remains the Governor of Abia State.
Ladies and gentlemen! Have you seen how Nwosu’s case turned to a blessing in disguise? No human being or authority on earth can thwart God’s mandate. Even when one thinks that all hope is lost, God will make out away for His people. Anyone who feels that the outcome of Nwosu’s case has no effect on Ogah’s case lacks understanding and vision. Let us keep our fingers crossed till the Court of Appeal decides…. But that may take a little long time.
Meanwhile, may I use this opportunity to say CONGRATULATIONS Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu- The Executive Governor of Abia State.
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