The Supreme Court this morning granted the joinder application of the AGPA candidate in the 2015 governorship elections in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti.
As usual, ignorant folks have entered the market place with completely disjointed versions of the ruling and its implications and making in the process, unfounded conclusions.
REAL MEANING OF THE OTTI APPLICATION.
It is public knowledge that Dr. Otti had fought his case with Governor Ikpeazu up to the highest Court of the land and lost.
So what is he fighting for?
His present application is tangential in nature. It has no life of its own. What he is essentially asking for is to be allowed to join the Uche Ogar case as a party, so that in the unlikely event that the Courts find conclusively that Governor Ikpeazu was not qualified ab initio to contest the elections, he, Otti, and not Ogar, should be declared Governor.
His argument is that since came second in the General Elections (he has finally agreed that he came second), he should be declared winner because Uche Ogar, having not taken any part in the main elections cannot be declared Governor.
Uche Ogar’s contention is already in the public domain. His case is that Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu was not qualified to even participate in the elections by reason of filing false statements in the tax returns he submitted to the PDP during their primaries.
It is also public knowledge that tax and payment thereof do not form part of the conditions that qualify a person to run for the office of Governor by virtue of the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
Assuming but by no means conceding that tax is a condition, could it validly said that Dr. Ikpeazu did not pay his taxes during the stipulated period?
It is again, public knowledge that Dr. Ikpeazu was a public servant within the period under review and as such was mandatorily subject to the PAYE tax system where his taxes are deducted at source even before he gets his salary.
Both the computation, deduction and documentation of taxes under the PAYE system are issues well beyond the control of the individual tax payer. There are relevant agencies of the state that are statutorily responsible for this work and whenever the payment of tax by any person subject to PAYE is in issue, the tax authorities MUST be heard because it is only them that can say authoritatively that such a person did, infact, pay or didn’t pay his taxes.
It was for this clear reason that the Court of Appeal upturned the judgment of Justice Okon Abang who on his own and without taking the evidence of the body charged by law to compute, collect and document taxes in Abia State, descended into the arena and calculated what he felt Dr. Ikpeazu was supposed to pay. Something a judge is not allowed to do in law. Judges do not manufacture evidence. They work with evidence supplied by witnesses.
So Alex Otti’s case has no life of its own. He didn’t file any suit against Governor Ikpeazu on the issue of tax. Having exhausted his own case, he cannot file another. What he seeks, and it is his right so to do, is this…IF BY ANY CHANCE, THE SUPREME COURT DECIDES THAT IKPEAZU WAS NOT ELIGIBLE TO CONTEST, MAKE ME GOVERNOR, NOT OGAR.
In other words, if the Court decides that Ikpeazu was qualified to run, the Otti case dies off.
So the big question is WILL THE SUPREME COURT DECIDE THAT IKPEAZU WAS NOT QUALIFIED TO CONTEST THE 2015 ELECTION BECAUSE HIS TAX PAPERS WERE ALLEGEDLY FALSE?
I don’t think so.
Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court held in the Cross River Governorship case that the alleged making of false statements in electoral forms cannot invalidate the election of a person who is ordinarily qualified under the relevant sections of the constitution.
The Supreme Court is not in the habit of overruling itself within weeks.
From available records, it takes the Supreme Court quite sometime before it overrules itself.
Indeed, no particular Supreme Court panel nor set has ever overruled itself. The few instances where the apex Court has overruled itself came when that set of Supreme Court Justices have all retired from the Court.
My position remains unchanged that all of these cases are mere distractions to Governor Ikpeazu and nothing more.
Beyond law and legalism, these endless specter of court cases in Abia State is indeed very unfortunate. Abia remains the only state in this country where there are still Court cases hovering over the 2015 elections. Other states have since moved on but in Abia, we are still in court.
Governor Ikpeazu remains undeterred in his relentless resolve to protect the mandate given to him by the people of Abia State. Even with all these distractions, he remains focused on his job which is to develop Abia for the good of our people, an assignment he has pursued with passion and a strong zeal.
These attempts by fifth columnists to set back the hands of the clock in the state and derail the huge successes recorded by the Ikpeazu administration will not work.
Finally, Governor Ikpeazu remains unshaken in his belief in our judiciary as the ultimate sanctum sanctorum of Justice and that in due time, all these distractions robed in the toga of court cases will end with a resounding chant of the nunc dimitis.
All Abians are urged to remain calm and go about their normal businesses with ease and relaxed minds.
Onyebuchi EMEMANKA, Esq.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications.