- Legal battle hits stalemate
There is emerging stalemate in the legal battle for the Governor of Abia State as Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, who last week ordered that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu should vacate office, at the resumed hearing of the suit, this Monday, refused to set aside his previous order last Monday.
Justice Abang also said that the enrollment order he gave to Uche Ogah was not an enforcement order.
The Judge also adjourned hearing on Ogah’s application seeking to vacate the order by Justice Chibuzo Ahuchaogu of Abia State High Court, that refrain the Chief Judge of Abia State from swearing him in as Governor of Abia State, to Thursday.
Governor Ikpeazu filed an application through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asking the court to vacate the order. Justice Abang, however, said that he will hear other applications on the matter on Thursday, but will not set aside his previous order.
The Judge had on Monday, June 27, ruled that Ikpeazu was not qualified to hold office as Abia Governor because he had filed a fake tax clearance before his election in 2015. He ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Uche Ogah, who was runner-up in the PDP primary. Abang also ordered the state’s Chief Judge to swear in Ogah. INEC had since complied with the court’s directive but the Abia State Chief Judge was said to have absconded from the state, perhaps, to tacitly forestall compliance with the court order.
Meanwhile, the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue has said that the tax clearance certificate issued to Governor Ikpeazu was not fake or fraudulent. It said that as an employee of the state government before he resigned to run for office, the governor’s taxes were deducted at source.
Chairman of the Abia Tax Board, Udochukwu Ogbonna, in a statement titled “Sacred facts/true position by the Abia State Internal Revenue Service,” acknowledged that Ikpeazu’s “taxes for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 were PAYE taxes deducted at source from his personal emoluments by his employers, Abia State Passengers’ Integrated Manifest Scheme and Abia State Environmental Sanitation Authority, respectively; and remitted to the service in the relevant tax years.”
Ogbonna said that the reason the governor’s tax receipts for the three years in question had the same date written was because it was the date he applied to be issued with the receipts, “because that was when he needed them.”
“In the same vein, the dates on the tax receipts did not suggest that they were written out on those days. The date on the receipts only indicates the last day of the last month of the year, when the PAYE tax payer became entitled to the receipts, as the receipts could not have carried a date earlier or later than the 31st December of the relevant tax year,” Ogbonna explained.
The internal revenue board remarked that the governor has no part to play in the deduction and remittance of his PAYE as that action is done by his employer.
“Where there is failure to deduct and remit PAYE taxes, it is the employer and not the tax payer that is liable,” the Board Chairman stated.