The court held that based on the record before the court, Mr. Omegara had been disqualified by the APC Screening Committee.
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Senator Ifeanyi Ararume a certificate of return within 72 hours in the December 5, 2020 Imo North Senatorial by-election.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judgment, said having been declared as the valid candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which had won the election, Ararume remained the winner of the poll.
According to him, with regard to the Appeal Court judgment in Abuja, the 3rd defendant (Chukwuma Ibezim) remains disqualified.
While Mr. Ararume is the plaintiff; INEC, APC and Mr. Ibezim are 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.
Mr. Araraume had dragged INEC before Justice Taiwo, asking the court to compel the commission to issue him certificate of return as the valid candidate of the APC in the said election.
He urged the court to invoke the judgments of the Abuja Federal High Court and that of an Appeal Court to disqualify Mr. Ibezim and declare him as the rightful candidate for the APC.
Having been joined in the suit, the APC insisted that Mr. Ararume was not its validly elected candidate while Mr. Ibezim urged the court to dismiss Mr. Ararume’s prayers, saying he remained the party’s authentic candidate.
In opposing Mr. Ararume’s suit, APC told the court that it never fielded him for the December 5, 2020, senatorial by-election for Imo North.
The party insisted that Mr. Ararume lacked the locus standi to lay claim to the candidacy and urged the court to dismiss his suit.
Messrs Ibezim and Araraume had fielded themselves as APC candidates prior to the election.
Although INEC had declared APC winner of the December 5, 2020 senatorial poll, the commission did not return a candidate from the party.
INEC hinged its decision on what it described as “several court orders” for and against the two major contenders.
Two court judgments had surfaced on December 4, 2020; one from the Court of Appeal, Owerri, and another from the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Court of Appeal faulted the judgment of the Federal High Court, Owerri, which had nullified the candidacy of Mr. Ibezim and declared him candidate while sacking Mr. Araraume barely 24 hours to the election.
However, Justice Inyang Ekwo of Abuja Federal High Court had on the other hand disqualified Mr. Ibezim as candidate of the party, on the grounds that Mr. Ibezim presented fake certificates to the APC and INEC.
Although the judgment would have been delivered on March 16 by Justice Taiwo, Mr. Ibezim, through his lawyer, Miss Ozohu Daudu, in an application for a stay of judgment, informed the court that the suit was pending before the apex court for hearing and determination.
But Counsel to Mr. Ararume, Tunde Falola, disagreed, saying the suit at the Supreme Court had been withdrawn through a notice of withdrawal and copies served on all the defendants.
He urged the court to dismiss the application.
Reading the judgement, Justice Taiwo disagreed with the APC that his court had no jurisdiction to hear Mr. Ararume’s application.
“In agreement with the plaintiff, this court has the jurisdiction to entertain this matter.
“I find no merit in the preliminary objection of the APC,” he said.
He further dismissed APC’s claim that even if Mr. Ibezim was disqualified, another aspirant, Mathew Omegara, who came second in the party’s primary election, ought to have been declared winner.
Although Mr. Taiwo acknowledged that a person who came second in an election should be declared winner where a candidate who won was disqualified, he however asked rhetorically: “Where is the person that came second in the primaries of the 2nd defendant?”
He noted that based on the record before the court, Mr. Omegara had been disqualified to participate in the poll by the APC Screening Committee and Screening Appeal Committee.
According to him, I did not agree with the 2nd defendant that the 3rd defendant is its candidate having disqualified the plaintiff before the primary election.
He said Section 66 of the constitution of the country had highlighted the counts for disqualification of aspirants in an election.
He recalled that the case of Mr. Ararume was between INEC until the court joined the APC and Mr. Ibezim.
Mr. Taiwo said he was also bound by the record before the court which implied that the APC’s candidate was Mr. Ararume.
“This was affirmed by the 1st defendant (INEC) who conducted the election by the admission of paragraph 3 of the plaintiff’s affidavit in support of the originating summon,” he held.
According to him, the position of the law is that what is admitted needs no further proof.
He also disagreed with the APC that granting the reliefs sought by Mr. Ararume might be prejudiced to the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“As at today, there is no appeal at the Supreme Court except the one already dealt with,” he said.
The judge said the court was bound by the judgment of the Appeal Court, citing previous cases to back his decision.
He said going by the Abuja Court of Appeal, Mr. Ibezim remained disqualified.
“The candidate of the 2nd defendant is narrowed down to the plaintiff who contested at the by-election.
“As at today, the plaintiff remains the candidate of the 2nd defendant at the Imo North Senatorial District By-election held on December 5, 2020.
“I therefore order that the 1st defendant (INEC) declare the plaintiff (Ararume) as the winner of the election having declared his party, the All Progressives Party, the winner.
“I also order that the plaintiff be issued Form EC8E and a Certificate of Return within 72 hours from today,” he ruled.
Leave a Reply