By Alex Enumah
The Supreme Court yesterday suspended hearing indefinitely on an appeal filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Francis Ibezim, against his disqualification in the December 5, 2020, Imo North Senatorial Bye-election.
Presiding Justice of a five man panel, Justice Musa Datijo Mohammed, attributed the indefinite suspension on a petition against him and two of his colleagues by the Acting Chairman of the APC, Mr. Mai Mala Buni.
Ibezim had approached the apex court to upturn two judgments of the lower courts that disqualified him in the December 5 Senatorial By-election for the vacant seat of the Imo North Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
Both the Court of Appeal, Abuja and Federal High Court, Abuja in two separate judgments had held that Ibezim supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to aid his qualification for the bye-election and accordingly ordered his disqualification from the poll.
Dissatisfied, Ibezim approached the Supreme Court to set the two judgments aside and hold that he was qualified to participate in the poll.
Ibezim and another candidate of the APC, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume are currently laying claim to the candidacy of the APC for the December 5 by-election.
Although the INEC had declared the APC as the winner of the by-election, it, however, refused to announce any person as the authentic candidate of the party on the grounds of conflicting court orders for and against the two major contenders.
When the matter came up yesterday, Justice Mohammed told lawyers in the matter that hearing would not go on as earlier scheduled because of a petition by the leadership of the APC.
The presiding justice revealed that Buni had accused him and two other Justices, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju and Justice Abdu Aboki of having a meeting with members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to subvert justice in the case.
Mohammed said that the APC in the petition had alleged that “my humble self led my two brothers to attend a meeting with members of the PDP to strategise how to subvert the outcome of this case.
“If people as highly placed as the interim chairperson of the APC would open his mouth and make this weighty statement against innocent justices of this court, then I say my heart bleeds.”
He challenged Buni and the APC to substantiate their allegation that he attended a meeting with members of the PDP with a view to subverting the interest of the APC.
Mohammed said: “This is a reckless and irresponsible statement. That is how these useless statements were made in the past and that is why we are not taking it lightly.
“If they have honour let them substantiate their allegations and I will not live a day longer in this court.
“So, this matter is adjourned sine die, and parties should approach the Chief Justice of the Federation.”
Responding, Ararume’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, said: “This is very shocking. I swear with my last day in this court that I, Ahmed Raji, knows nothing about this issue and I condemn it with all the strength in me.
“I sympathise with your lordships and whatever measure your lordship deems appropriate, we are fully in support.”
Similarly, the APC’s lawyer, Mr. Umeh Kalu, said: “I am taken aback by this. I have never in my life met with the interim chairman of the APC.
“In matters of this nature, we normally deal with the legal adviser.
“In the first place, the PDP is not a party in this matter”, Kalu said.
Meanwhile, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja, on March 18, ordered the INEC to issue Ararume with the certificate of return based on Ibezim’s disqualification from the December 5 by-election.