Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The controversy that trailed the Imo North Senatorial primary by-election assumed another dimension yesterday as the screening committee accused the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of undermining its authority by clearing six aspirants that were disqualified from contesting the primary.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena, had issued a statement after the screening committee and appeal committee had concluded their work that the APC cleared all aspirants who purchased expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the party’s primary election ahead of the October 31 concurrent legislative by-elections.
But, while addressing journalists yesterday at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, the Chairman of Imo North Senatorial Screening Committee, Dr. Lawrence Chuku, accused the leadership of the party of clearing disqualified aspirants.
The primary election for the Imo North senatorial by-election held on Thursday last week saw the emergence of Mr. Ibezim Frank, who was declared winner by Senator Ajibola Bashir-led-faction of the committee, while Senator Ifeanyi Araume was declared winner by Mr. Umar Nguma-led faction.
Chuku said, “we are the members of the Imo North Senatorial screening committee of the APC, appointed vide letters of appointment dated August 25, 2020 and duly inaugurated at the party’s headquarters on the 26th of August by the acting National Secretary, Senator John James Akpan- Udoedehe.
“Unfortunately, with utmost dismay, we noticed that our report, which cleared five aspirants and have six not cleared for very cogent and verifiable reasons were jettisoned.”
Chuku lamented that both the aspirants cleared and those not cleared were allowed to run for the senatorial primary, adding that embarrassingly, one of the aspirants not cleared was being touted as having emerged as one of the winners of the said “controversial primary election.”
He noted that out of the eleven aspirants, five were cleared by the Committee namely: Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Uchendu Chijioke, Edith Uwajimuogu, Bright Nwachukwu and Eze Okoros.
Chuku stressed that the six other aspirants that were disqualified for not meeting the basic requirements were: Hon. Matthew Omegara, Achonu Nneji, Ibezim Frank, Uchenna Uba, Onuoha Chijioke and Iheanacho Ihim.
He said with Section 11 of the guidelines for the nomination of candidates, the roles and responsibilities of the screening committee, the committee did its job sincerely, honestly and diligently without fear or favour
Chuku said Ibezim who is purported to be one of the possible flagbearers of the party was not cleared to contest the primary election because he did not submit any originals of his educational certificates or properly certified true copies for citing.
He said he was also not cleared because he presented a statutory declaration of age deposed to by one Emmanuel Ibezim, who happens to be his elder brother, while adding that the statutory age declaration was not signed by the declarant, which rendered the document invalid.
Chuku said Ibezim submitted another affidavit, stating the loss of his academic qualification certificates, which was not signed by the deponent, stressing that this also rendered the document invalid.
He added that the said unsigned affidavit did not have a police extract in support, to show that he reported to the law enforcement authority.
“Mr. Frank Ibezim submitted the photocopies of his academic certificates which he said were missing namely, WAEC certificate, university degree and NYSC certificate, purportedly certified as true copies of the originals and we made the following observations.
“One person signed a signature on all the photocopies of his certificates and dated them for a fee of N500, as though they were being certified as true copies.
“Nothing written on the academic certificates read ‘certified true copies. Nothing written on them showed who purportedly certified the certificates as true copies. Nothing written on them showed where they were certified in other to prove that the certifier had custody of the originals as required by law.”
Chuku pointed out that Ibezim’s “invalid affidavit” of loss of certificates was dated in 2010 and he has had them for 10 years without signature and neither did he make any attempt to contact the issuing authorities to properly certify them.
He said as responsible party loyalists, they are committed to ensuring that the party does the right thing by putting the right foot forward to win the Imo North senatorial by-election.