By Wandoo Sombo
Abuja – The Supreme Court will on May 12, deliver judgment in the Abia governorship tussle between incumbent Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu and his contender, Dr Samson Ogah.
The apex court fixed the date on Wednesday after submissions from parties in the matter.
At the hearing of the appeal filed by Ogah, his counsel, Mr Alex Iziyon (SAN), urged the court to set aside the 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the nomination of Ikpeazu.
Iziyon argued that Ogah’s case was that Ikpeazu was not qualified to have contested the 2015 Abia governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said this was on the grounds that he supplied false information in the document he used to secure clearance for the election.
Iziyon said that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it delivered its judgment in favour of Ikpeazu on the grounds that Ogah case was based on perjury.
He insisted that his client never raised any criminal matter against Ikpeazu.
He said he only claimed that he (Ikpeazu) submitted false information in his form CF001 which by provision of Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 made him ineligible to contest.
The counsel further argued that the Federal High Court which removed Ikpeazu from office found that he had supplied false information in respect of his tax papers.
He said the trial court discovered that the tax papers were dated Saturday which was not a working day.
Iziyon urged the court to set aside the decision of the appellate court in respect of the matter and uphold the judgment of the Federal High Court.
Ikpeazu, in objecting to the appeal, urged the apex court to dismiss it for lacking in merit.
The governor, through his counsel, Mr Wale Olanipekun, argued that the trial court miscarried justice in its judgment.
He said this was because the PDP guidelines and its constitution which would have aided the court to arrive at a just conclusion were not before the court.
Based on this, he submitted that the trial judge based his judgment on extraneous considerations.
Olanipekun said that the trial court went out of its way when it assumed that Ikpeazu did not pay tax because the tax papers were dated Saturday.
He also said that it was wrong for the trial court to have crucified his client for perjury for a public servant, whose tax was deducted from source and confirmed by the Abia tax officers in their affidavit evidence.
Olanipekun maintained that even if there were inconsistencies in the form CF001 of his client, the inconsistencies could not be used to disqualify him.
This, according to him was because the provisions of Section 31 of the Electoral Act could override the provisions of Section 177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution which both deal with qualification to stand for election.
He therefore urged the apex court to uphold the judgment of the Court of Appeal which set aside the judgment of the trial court on account of miscarriage of justice.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), represented by Mr Alhassan Umar, also urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal and allow the judgment of the appeal court in the matter to stand.
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Samuel Onnoghen after listening to arguments from all parties, fixed May 12 for final judgment in the matter.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ogah who came second in the governorship primary election of the PDP of 2014 had approached the Federal High Court to nullify the nomination and sponsorship of Ikpeazu.
He based his reasons on the grounds that Ikpeazu supplied false information in order to get his tax papers.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang had in his judgment agreed with Ogah.
Abang, in a judgment delivered on June 27, 2016, nullified the nomination of the governor and replaced him with Ogah as the qualified PDP candidate for the 2015 governorship election in Abia.
The appeal court, however, in its judgment , disagreed with Abang on the grounds that the case of Ogah was based on criminal matter which was not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.
Abia Guber Tussle: Supreme Court Delivers Judgment May 12
By Wandoo Sombo