Court sacks Ibezim, declares Ararume APC candidate for Imo North Senatorial by-election
A Federal High Court in Owerri has sacked Frank Ibezim as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Imo North senatorial by-election.
The court, in a ruling on Friday, declared Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the rightful candidate to stand as the APC candidate for the election.
Following the death of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu last December, the seat of Imo North senatorial district at the Senate became vacant.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed a by-election to pick a new senator for the zone on October 31, 2020 but later postponed it indefinitely because of #EndSARS protests.
However, the APC had ahead of the October 31 date, organised parallel primaries which produced both Ibezim and Ararume as candidates of the party. The party later settled for Ibezim, said to be Governor Hope Uzodimma’s anointed candidate.
But not satisfied, one of the candidates in the primaries, Lady Uchenna Uba dragged the matter to court and prayed for an order to be declared the authentic candidate of the party for the by-election.
In her suit, the APC, INEC, Araraume, Edith Chidinma Uwajumogu (Late Uwajumogu’s wife) and Mathew Omegara were joined as 1st to 5th defendants.
The court earlier fixed October 27, 2020 to rule on the suit No. FHC/101/2020. Finally, ruling on the matter last Friday, the presiding Judge, Justice Tegem isolated two issues for resolution, which were the issue of tentative result and determining the rightful winner.
The judge said that there were two different results tendered in evidence before the court, the result from the Plaintiff, the 1st Defendant, and also Mr. Frank Ibezim.
The judge noted that whereas the first result was signed by the chairman and secretary of the APC’s seven-member panel that conducted the primary election, where Ibezim polled the highest number of votes and was declared winner, the second tendered in evidence before the court by the third defendant (Senator Araraume) was written by a split group of the same seven-member panel for the conduct of the election, but did not sign that result in which Ararume scored the highest number of votes and was declared winner.
On the first issue the court held, “In the court of law an unsigned document is no document, since the authenticity of the document cannot be ascertained.”
The presiding judge said, “The result signed by the chairman and secretary of the seven-member panel in my view is the tentative result.”
Then ruling on who is the rightful winner, Justice Tegem asked, “What is the implication of the disqualification as adduced by the counsel to the 4th respondent (Edith Uwanjumogu)?”
According to the judge, Ibezim, by coming to court through a proxy, spoilt what ordinarily was a very good opportunity before him, but missed it having chosen to do it by proxy.
Justice Tegem said that tendered in evidence before the court by the plaintiff were reports of both the screening committee and the appeal panel of the APC. The reports he said, showed no evidence that the disqualified aspirants (the Plaintiff (Uba), Ibezim and the 5th defendant Omegra and three others) appealed to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
He further noted that counsel to the plaintiff and the 1st defendant never raised any point of law in defense of the issue of disqualification during their adumbration in adoption of their written addresses.
He said, “this amounted in my view to an admission.”
He held, “In the eyes of the Law, the plaintiff, Frank Ibezim, Mathew Omegra and three others never participated in the primary election. Disqualified aspirants remained not aspirants in the said primary having been disqualified.”
Justice Tegem then ruled, “The participation of Frank Ibezim is nullified having been disqualified by the party screening committee and the appeal panel before the primary election.
“That the next person who polled the third highest votes in the resolved tentative result, which is Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, to now be the candidate of the party for the by-election of the Imo North senatorial district, replacing Ibezim.”