Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has advised his lawyers to appeal the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that sacked him from office.
The court, presided over by Justice Okon Abang, on Monday annulled Mr. Ikpeazu’s election as governor after convicting him of tax evasion.
The court also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a certificate of return to Samson Ogah, who contested the governorship ticket with the governor.
Having been found guilty of tax evasion, the court held that Mr. Ikpeazu was not qualified to have contested the 2015 governorship election in Abia State.
The court also ordered the governor to vacate office immediately, and hand over to Mr. Ogah, owner of Masters Energy, who came second in the PDP governorship primaries in Abia.
But in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Enyinnaya Appolos, the governor said he already advised his lawyers to appeal the ruling and appealed to the people of the state to remain calm.
While reiterating his faith in the country’s judiciary and the rule of law, Mr. Ikpeazu said he remained the governor pending the determination of the case in the appellate courts.
As an appointee of Abia State Government from 2011 to 2014, he argued that his taxes were deducted at source.
He also argued that the state Board of Internal Revenue in 2014 issued him with valid tax receipts shortly before he contested the governorship election in the state.
Mr. Ikpeazu had served as General Manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme, ASPIMSS, before resigning in October 2014 to contest the governorship election in the state.
Two members of the PDP had accused Mr. Ikpeazu of failing to pay personal income tax promptly as and when due for 2010 and 2011 in line with Section 24(f) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “It shall be the duty of every citizen to … declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and pay his tax promptly.”
In suit no. FHC/ABJ/ CS/1086/2014, dated December 22, 2014, and instituted at the Federal High Court, Abuja, two individuals, Obasi Eke and Chukwuemeka Mba, had asked the PDP and INEC to disqualify Mr. Ikpeazu from contesting the governorship election.
The plaintiffs contended that Mr. Ikpeazu was not fit and proper, having failed to pay his personal income tax for two years in line with the demand of the Constitution of Nigeria.
They further asked the court for “A declaration that the 3rd defendant (Mr. Ikpeazu), having failed and/or refused to pay his personal income tax promptly as and when due for the years 2010 and 2011 in compliance with the mandatory provisions of Section 24(f) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended, as well as Paragraph 13 of Part IV of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014, is not a fit and proper person to contest the gubernatorial election of Abia State in the 2015 general election, and is accordingly disqualified from contesting the election.”
They also asked for an order barring the PDP from presenting Mr. Ikpeazu as candidate for governor in the 2015 election.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs included an order barring INEC from accepting Mr. Ikpeazu as Abia State PDP governorship candidate for the 2015 election.
They also requested a consequential order that the candidate at the PDP primary election of December 8, 2014, who polled the second highest number of votes cast at the said election should be pronounced the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship election in Abia State.