Law News
S’court orders re-hearing of tax suit against Ikpeazu

The Supreme Court has ordered the Federal High Court in Abuja to begin a fresh hearing of a suit challenging the qualification of Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, to contest the April 11, 2015 poll.

The appellants on whose case the apex court ruled on Friday are challenging Ikpeazu’s candidacy to contest in the April 11, 2015 poll on the grounds that he made false claims regarding his tax payments in his forms submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The Court of Appeal in Owerri, Imo State, had earlier on December 31, 2015 nullified Ikpeazu’s election and declared the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in the 2015 general elections, Dr. Alex Otti, as the winner of the poll.

The suit on which the Supreme Court ruled on Friday was instituted before a Federal High Court in Abuja by two governorship aspirants on the governor’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party, Obasi Ekagbara and Chukwuemeka Mba.

The Supreme Court’s five-man panel headed by Justice Muntaka-Coomasie, in its judgment on Friday, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had ruled that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case.

The apex court ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign the case to another judge different from the one who heard it before the case proceeded on appeal.

The Federal High Court had ruled that, the case being a pre-election matter, it had jurisdiction to entertain the case.

“I order the remittance of this suit to the learned Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for immediate assignment to another judge for expeditious determination,” the Supreme Court ruled.

The appellants had in their suit filed before the Federal High Court sought among other prayers, a declaration that Ikpeazu’s INEC Form CF001, tax payment receipts and Tax Clearance Certificate contained false information.

They had urged the court to order that Ikpeazu was not fit to contest the April 11, 2015 poll having allegedly failed to pay his income tax promptly as and when due for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 and falsely stating in his INEC Form CF001 and the documents attached to it that he paid the tax when he was supposed to.

They also sought an order disqualifying Ikpeazu from contesting in the election and another order barring the PDP from accepting him as a candidate.

Justice Muntaka-Coomasie held on Friday that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have ruled that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

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