Taking the Fight to Ikpeazu

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Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu’s propaganda will not save him from the current governorship debacle. Yusuf Sule writes

A pressure group, Abia Professional and Progressive League has written a strongly worded letter to the embattled governor of Abia State, Okeize Ikpeazu, which further shrinks the governor’s support base within the state. The battle for the soul of Abia State could not have been fiercer than it currently is. And in the middle of it is the embattled Governor of the state, Ikepazu, and his challenger, Uche Ogah, the owner of Masters Energy Limited.

An Abuja Federal High Court under Justice Okon Abang had on 27th June this year ruled that Governor Ikpeazu should not have even contested the governorship election of April 2015, in the first place as there were discrepancies in his tax clearance papers.

The judge then ordered that since he should not have been fielded by his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the first place, the aspirant that came second in the primaries should be issued the Certificate of Return. And the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not waste time. The Commission’s commissioner in charge of the South-east, Lawrence Nwuruku, promptly issue the certificate to Ogah.

However, another court recently ruled that all parties involved in the matter maintained the status quo ante until further notice. But that has not deterred those involved from trying to outdo themselves. And one of the ways they are doing this is through solidarity visits and rallies.

Perhaps, nauseated by this, a group, Abia Professional and Progressive League, in a widely circulated open letter to the governor, signed by Chief Nnamdi Udemigbo, who is the chairman, and Deacon Okechukwu Okeke, the secretary, where he was described as “out-gone governor”, said it had refrained all this while from commenting on the matter “until we applied for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Judgment and read it.

“Let us restate the facts of the case briefly upon which the Federal High Court, Abuja Division per coram Okon Abang gave its judgment of 27th June 2016…all hands should be on deck to rescue it from the brink of total collapse, economic emasculation, infrastructural decay, sheer propaganda, and financially-induced solidarity cum condolence visits and rallies.”

The group claimed that in Form CF001 sworn to by the governor, he deposed to an affidavit (with attached documents) stating that: in 2011, based on the letter appointment you attached, he was appointed in Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest Scheme, ASPIMS, on 18th July 2011 with annual emolument of N493,128 (if assigned Government vehicle) or N546, 609.00 (if not assigned Government vehicle) but the tax receipt and/or tax clearance certificate that Ikpeazu attached did not reflect these figures.

In their words, the group stated, “However, the 2011 tax receipt you attached indicated that your gross emolument for 2011 is N1,135,476.00 upon which you were assessed. Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, were you paid emolument of N1,135 476.00 for working in ASPIMS for 5 months and 12 days in 2011 while your letter of appointment stated otherwise? This is false information.

“Secondly, the date of 31st December 2011 in 2011 tax receipt with Serial No. 0012849 is a Saturday, which is a non-working day in Abia State. Tax year covers from January 1st to 31stDecember (depending on if you have a taxable income) however the date for payment is usually recorded on the tax receipt which in that case was 31st December 2011. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, based on the document you supplied to INEC, did you not depose to an affidavit that you paid tax on a Saturday? This is false information.

“Thirdly, the Serial No. 0012846 of 2012 tax receipt came first before the 2011 tax receipt which was Serial No. 0012849 when it should have been the other way round, the same for 2013 Tax Receipt No. 0012847. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, this is false information because it cannot be true that a later year serial No. is first in time to the year before it.

“Fourthly, the amount you deposed to an affidavit to have paid as tax in the tax receipts for 2011, 2012 and 2013 is different from the amount paid as tax in the tax clearance certificate. For instance, while the column for 2013 under the tax clearance certificate indicated that you paid N75,017.76, the tax clearance receipt for the same 2013 with Serial No. 0012847 indicated that you paid N38,775.00. The amount on the tax clearance certificate should correspond with the amount on the tax clearance receipt. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu that is another false information.

“Fifthly, your record about 2011 emolument is N1,135,476.00 when you worked for 5 months and 12 days from which you had paid N166,145.20 as tax. This much was revealed by the tax clearance receipt and your ASPIMS appointment letter you attached whereas, in 2012 when you had earned the same amount in emolument and had worked for 12 months, you paid a lesser amount of N66,000.00.

“This is false information to the extent that you (Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu) could not have paid a higher amount when you worked for fewer months and paid lesser amount from the same gross emolument when you worked for 12 months.”

Explaining why the governor was referred to as being an “out-gone governor”, the group quoted a similar case, Jev Vs. Iyortom in 2015) 15 NWLR (pt. 1483) 484, at 505-506 the Supreme Court, where the interpretation to Section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 was used to knock off some electoral cases. And as such, in the eyes of the law, according to the group, Dr. Ikpeazu is no longer the governor of Abia State.

“In the eye of the law, you are no longer the governor of Abia State since the 28th June 2016. What Abia State has now is Governor-elect. In a pre-election matter as this, appeal does not serve as stay. Until stay of execution is obtained, the person with the latter certificate of Return is entitled to be sworn in.

“Therefore, instead of whipping up baseless sentiments that the unity of Abia is being threatened and that Nigeria’s fragile democracy is under threat, you should be on solemn mood thinking of how to obtain forgiveness from PDP that you misled into sponsoring you, thereby ridiculing the party.
“You should equally ask for forgiveness from all Abians, who have been placed on negative spotlight ever since the judgment was delivered. You should apologise to civil servants in Abia State, who have not received salaries for up to six to seven months, you should be thinking of how to positively contribute your own quota as a private citizen.”

The group berated the governor for declaring a public holiday immediately after the judgment was delivered to prevent any official activity from taking place, which would have included the swearing-in of Ogah. The group stated that as at now, the Abia State Government House has become a rented apartment for the embattled governor since he is no longer the governor of the state under the law.

Berating the governor further, the group stated that the prolonged legal and political battle over the Abia governorship seat is putting the nation’s judiciary in serious risk as the judiciary itself and its personnel are being blackmailed.

“Nigerian Judiciary as an institution and personnel are being blackmailed, harassed, ridiculed and abused by your comments and actions. No one disobeys or neglects to obey a valid court order and still runs to the court for protection. Abians are watching. Nigerians are watching. The world is watching. Discerning minds are no fools. Nigerian judiciary is put under the strictest test thereof.”

It remains to be seen how the whole saga will pan out. But as it stands, it seems the space for political and legal maneuver by the governor is shrinking everyday.
-Sule wrote from Abuja

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But that has not deterred those involved from trying to outdo themselves. And one of the ways they are doing this is through solidarity visits and rallies… It remains to be seen how the whole saga will pan out. But as it stands, it seems the space for political and legal maneuver by the governor is shrinking everyday