The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been directed to declare Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the December 5, 2020, bye-election conducted for Imo North Senatorial District, Imo State.
In a ruling on Thursday, Justice Taiwo Oladipupo Taiwo held in a judgment that Ararume remained the authentic candidate of the APC in the election and should be declared the winner of that election.
The Judge also ordered INEC 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.
The judge threw aside 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 filed by the APC and Ibezim lacked merit.
The court further explained that Ibezim being purported by the party as its candidate in the election had earlier been disqualified by a Federal High Court and later, a Court of Appeal, having been found guilty of supplying false information to the electoral body.
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 the judgments of the high court and later the Court of Appeal have conclusively disqualified Ibezim and that he cannot claim to have been an aspirant or candidate in the Imo North Senatorial election.
The APC had opposed Ararume’s suit, telling the court that Ararume was never its candidate for the December senatorial bye-election.
The ruling party said that Ararume did not even come second in the primary election and so cannot lay claims on the party’s candidacy.
Ararume had dragged the INEC, APC and Ibezim before the Federal High Court praying for an order to compel INEC to declare him the APC senatorial candidate in the election.
But, the APC, through its counsel, Osho Daudu asked the court to discountenance 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.
Ibezim’s lawyer, Emma Osayomi, had in his submissions pointed out to the court that his client has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification on account of variation in his name.