A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return within 72 hours to Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the winner of the December 5, 2020 by-election for the Imo North senatorial district of Imo State.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Taiwo Oladipupo Taiwo, the court held that Ararume remained the authentic candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the election as of yesterday and should be declared the winner of that election.
The judge dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the APC and one Chukwuma Francis Ibezim, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain Ararume’s suit.
Justice Taiwo held that the objection lacked merit because Ibezim being purported by APC as its candidate in the by-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.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Ahmed Raji, who represented Ararume, told the court 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 election.
But in opposing Ararume’s suit, APC had told the court that it never fielded Ararume for the last year December senatorial election.
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 recognise 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 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.
Counsel to Ibezim, Mr. Emma Osayomi, had in his submission, said that his client has approached the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification on account of variation in his name.