Most reports on why Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state was sacked by a federal high court in Abuja have stated wrongly that it was because he forged tax documents. The Abia state tax authorities had to even release a statement saying Ikpeazu’s tax documents were genuine.
But forged tax documents had nothing to do with the governor’s ouster, according to the chief registrar of the federal high court, Emmanuel Gakko.
Justice Okon Abang ordered Ikpeazu’s sack because the governor allegedly submitted false tax information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Notice the difference: The tax documents were not forged but the information which the governor gave to INEC was false.
“The court held that the information in Form CF001 as shown by him (Ikpeazu) in the affidavit accompanied with other documents to INEC are false and has nothing to do with forgery,” said Gakko in a statement on Friday.
There were two cases against the governor before the high court. The first one was before Justice Ambrose Allagoa, while the second one was before Justice Okon Abang. The first case before Allagoa had to do with alleged forgery or falsification of tax certificate and receipts for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 by Dr. Ikpeazu; but the second case before Abang concerned the submitting of false information to INEC.
The one before Allagoa was dismissed. The judge ruled that “forgery is a criminal offence and must be proved, which the plaintiff failed to do.”
Justice Allagoa also held that since the Abia State Director of Taxes even testified that the documents are genuine, it had to be presumed that they were genuine unless the plaintiffs could prove otherwise. The judge did not not make any consequential orders with regard to the position of the governor other than the allegation of forgery.
But in the matter before Justice Abang, the court found that the information provided was false and therefore “made consequential orders under the doctrine of ‘lis pendens,’ which disallows any transfer of rights or interest in any subject matter that is being litigated upon during the pendency of litigation in respect of the said subject-matter.
“The court, accordingly, declared Dr. Ogah as the winner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries and should be issued with Certificate of Return accordingly.”
The Chief Registrar said the clarification became necessary in view of “misrepresentation of facts as published in some electronic and print media and comments by both legal practitioners and laymen on the correct facts of the cases involving the Abia State Governor and the Judgment of Hon. Justice O. E. Abang and Hon. Justice A. L. Allagoa.”