A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to declare Chief Ifeanyi Ararume as the winner of the December 5, 2020 bye-election for the Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State.
Justice Taiwo Oladipupo Taiwo held in a judgment that Ararume remained the authentic candidate of the All Progressive Congress in the election as of today and should be declared the winner of that election.
The judge also ordered the electoral body to issue a Certificate of Return to Ararume within 72 hours from the delivery of the judgment for him to be formally inaugurated by the Senate President.
Justice Taiwo dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the APC and one Chukwuma Francis Ibezim challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain Ararume’s suit.
The judge held that the objection lacked merit because Ibezim being purported by APC as its candidate in the bye-election had been disqualified by a Federal High Court and later Court of Appeal for supplying false information to INEC to secure clearance for participation in the election.
Ararume had, through his counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), told Justice Taiwo to invoke the judgments of a Federal High Court and that of Appeal Court to disqualify Ibezim and declare him as the rightful candidate for APC.
Raji said that the judgments of the high court and later the Court of Appeal have conclusively disqualified Ibezim and cannot claim to be an aspirant or candidate in the Imo North Senatorial election.
In opposing Ararume’s suit, APC had told the court that it never fielded Ararume for the last year December senatorial bye-election for Imo North Senatorial District of Imo state.
The party had, insisted that Ararume lacked locus standi to lay claim to the candidacy because he did not even come second in the primary election conducted for candidate nomination and urged the court to dismiss his suit.
Ararume had dragged the INEC, APC and Ibezim before the Federal High Court praying for an order to compel INEC to recognize him as a APC senatorial candidate in the election won by the party.
He claimed that Ibezim, having been disqualified by a Federal High Court on account of supplying false information to INEC to secure clearance and the disqualification having been upheld by the Court of Appeal in Abuja had knocked off Ibezim from laying any claim to the outcome of the by-election.
But the APC, through its counsel, Osho Daudu asked the court to discontenance Ararume’s claims insisting that his name was never forwarded to INEC but that of Chukwuma Francis Ibezim.
The counsel submitted that a federal high court judgment delivered in Owerri, Imo State which erroneously conferred locus on Ararume had been voided by Supreme Court and cannot confer any advantage on the plaintiff.
Emma Osayomi, representing Ibezim, in his own submissions had said that his client has approached the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification on account of variation in his name.
The counsel argued that as at the election day, the name of his client was on the INEC list and not that of Ararume and urged the court to dismiss Ararume’s claims and hold that Chukwuemeka Francis remains the APC candidate.