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Ubani: We didn’t challenge Ikpeazu on forgery

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Ubani

Ubani

Barrister Monday Onyekachi Ubani, counsel to Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah tells LEO SOBECHI in this interview, that the pre-election case against Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu over the Abia State governorship is a test case for Nigeria’s politics and jurisprudence.

A mixture of misinterpretations, sentiments and arguments have continued to trail the recent court ruling on the Abia governorship, what are the critical elements you took to court?
The point to note is that, it was pre-election matter. The PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) conducted governorship primary for Abia State on December 8, 2014. Finally there were so many manipulations and my client tried as much as possible to appeal to the primary election appeal committee. Of course, in their usual way they ignored us. People now know how election are conducted in the entire southeast, people manipulate the entire process and in most instances, you are told to go to court, because they know the aggrieved may not have the wherewithal to prosecute the litigation. Even when you go to court, they do all manner of things to have their way.
  
They ignored us and we went to court to say that the man who came first in the primary was not qualified, in the first place, to have even contested the primaries. He was supposed to provide evidence of payment of tax, but what he provided contained so many discrepancies. He was said to have been employed by the government sometime in July, but his tax papers showed that he started paying tax from January to December. So, if you were employed in July, how did you start paying tax before they employed you? How come your annual salary was different from what the taxation was based?
  
For instance, you were supposed to be earning N500, 000 per month; but his taxable income was N1m. Yet, you are saying your tax is being deducted at source, if so, why these conflicting figures. On the face of the document, we discovered it was a lie. We didn’t go for forgery, because it is difficult to prove forgery, especially when you have the BIR (Board of Internal Revenue) coming out to side with the respondent to say it is genuine.  They know the governor is in trouble, so they decided to employ all manner of pranks to say, ‘look it is a genuine document’. Proving forgery is a serious case that requires serious proof and if you cannot provide evidence of forgery the case suffers. That is why we took up the matter on its face value. That is exactly why the case at the Federal High Court, Owerri suffered that fate.

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But in our own case, we applied section 131 of the Electoral Act; it deals with false information. The candidate provided false information on his papers.  Based on the form he filled, any other person could have gone to court to prove that the governor was not qualified, because of his false information. The tax papers he provided had a declaratory note. He attested that the information contained there could be attributed to him and that if the information should be found to be false, misleading, that he should be disqualified from the election. So the information we have on the face of the document are all misleading and demand that he was not qualified to contest the governorship.
  
The man that came second, Dr. Uche Ogah, because in the absence of the person that PDP presented as the winner, the man who came second and scored 103 votes in the primary, was Uche Ogah. And since the election has taken place and PDP was declared winner, based on the recent Supreme Court judgment in Otti vs PDP, INEC, Ogah is therefore the rightful person to step into the shoes of the candidate and be sworn into office.
  
The court ordered INEC to issue him with a certificate of return and that he should be sworn into office by the Chief Judge of Abia State. So, in the absence of any contrary order or staying of execution order; INEC did what it was supposed to do as an agency of government that ought to obey court judgments. And that order has been carried out, by issuing the certificate of return to Uche Ogah.

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In absence of any contrary order, Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah, is the governor-elect of Abia State. That man that is there is occupying the office illegally; using state power illegally, he is doing a lot of things illegally, withdrawing money, declaring public holidays, signing bills and documents on behalf of Abia State, whereas he is not supposed to do that under the laws of the land. The law today is that Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah is the governor-elect and the other man’s election has been cancelled.

Do you sound apprehensive that this political instance of corruption if condoned could serve as a precedent?
It would serve as a precedent, because, if we allow it to stay, that means anybody can do all manner of things to get into position. I know that the issue of tax and taxation is taken seriously in developing economies. You know why? They don’t have any other thing to depend on; they use taxation to pay salaries, to run the economy. It is so for the American and British economies.

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All the economies in the world of very civilized people are run on taxes and people paying their taxes as and at when due. You cannot aspire to be a public officer when you cannot pay your tax; you go and conjure papers and all manner of documents when you are not paying anything. Then you use it to go and run election and want to manage people’s taxation, manage people’s resources, whereas, you have not paid yours. Who comes to equity must come with clean hands. You should not manage people’s resources when you cannot bring in anything to the resource centre, the treasury.
  
So we are saying this should serve as a precedent. And it is a case that is very novel and we would keep watching what would happen at the appellate courts, so that we can set our records straight, set our economy right, and set our political system right even our judicial system. We must begin to do things right in this country. People don’t know that why Nigeria today looks like a country that is disorganized, is that, even from the agencies, some of the bodies that are supposed to do things that are right, they are not doing it. And for this country to be right, it would need a very clean judicial system, very clean press; because journalists play a great role in sensitizing society, in information management, in ensuring that we have ethos and norms.

Are you saying that unless somebody suffers for document mutilation, especially tax papers, citizens would not take such matters seriously?  
There must be consequences.  As long as you condone all manner of things, impunity will continue. It is beyond sentiments. Some people will say I am from this particular area. Or, it is our turn and you want to deprive us of the opportunity. Present the qualified candidate, do the right thing, get it properly done. I have no problem with that. But the moment the necessary things are not done, it becomes open to scrutiny.


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