An Opininion piece by Prof Ikechukwu Mgbeoji
It has been nearly 4 weeks since the Supreme Court decided the appeal in re: Joe Agi SAN vs. PDP & 2 Ors (SC/256/2016). This is the appeal in which Ayade was accused of presenting 3 different birth certificates and three of which were said to be forged. Agi's contention was that Ayade was ineligible to contest the governorship of Cross River State because he (Ayade) presented false documents on oath on a matter concerning Ayade's age. Despite the salience and pertinence of that judgment to the appeal lodged by Uche Ogah against the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu's qualifications to vie for the governorship of Abia State. This judgment is probably a pointer to the forthcoming decision in re: Ogah vs. Ikpeazu.
Here is the deal: The Supreme Court affirmed the election of Prof. Ayade and dismissed Agi's appeal on the ground, inter alia, that the allegations of presenting false documents or making false declarations under oath by Prof. Ayade to PDP in FORM CF001does not operate to disqualify an otherwise qualified candidate.
Rather, the purport and object of Article 14(b) of the PDP Guidelines "is to ensure compliance with the CONSTITUTIONAL requirements ...for the office of a candidate who seeks to contest for the office of a Governor." (Emphasis supplied).
Permit me to quote the Supreme Court in extenso:
"By the provision of section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, the position of the law is well established that where a candidate makes a false declaration in his Form CF001, a person aggrieved may seek redress. However, the purport of s 31(5) is not designed to disqualify a candidate who is otherwise qualified to contest the relevant election under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I seek to say further that even in situations where a governorship candidate makes inconsistent statements in his form CF001 and such a candidate is nevertheless qualified to contest the election under the provisions of section 177(b) of the Constitution, he will not, notwithstanding the inconistencies in his form, be disqualified to contest the election." Per Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi at page 74.
A fortiori, as payment of taxes if NOT a constitutional requirement for contesting the governorship position of a state, allegations of false declaration on tax payment are IRRELEVANT.
The electronic version of the judgment is available online.