The Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja has given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 72 hours to issue Certificate of Return to Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as winner of the December 5 Imo North Bye-election.
This came as the court declared Ararume as the valid candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) which had won the election.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave the verdict on Thursday while agreeing with Ararume’s lawyers, Ahmed Raji SAN and Tunde Falola, that Chukwuma Ibezim had been disqualified from claiming APC’s victory by an Appeal Court in Abuja.
Recall that the court had adjourned till March 16 to deliver a verdict that would decide who claims APC’s victory between Ararume and Ibezim.
Senator Araraume had dragged INEC before Justice Taiwo, asking the court to compel the Commission to issue him certificate of return as the valid candidate of the APC in the said election.
But Ibezim and the APC also joined the suit asking Justice Taiwo to reconsider Ararume’s prayers following previous judgements of higher courts.
Reading the judgement, Justice Taiwo disagreed with the APC that his court had no jurisdiction to hear Ararume’s application.
“The second defendant (APC) had argued that the court to determine the case was an election tribunal and not a regular court.
“INEC said that the plaintiff had not proved that he was the actual candidate of the APC.
“In agreement with the plaintiff, this court has the jurisdiction to entertain this matter.
“I find no merit in the preliminary objection of the APC,” he said.
He further dismissed APC’s claim that even if Ibezim was disqualified, one Matthew O. came second in the party’s primary election and should have been declared winner.
Justice Taiwo said that from all indications, Ifeanyi Ararume was the candidate of the party in the said election.
“The disqualification of the third defendant was affirmed by the Appeal Court.
“From the three judgements, the pronouncement made by the superior courts were not against the plaintiff.
“It is for this reason that I consider it irrelevant for APC to claim that Ibezim was its candidate.
“It appears that the candidate for the said election was the plaintiff.
“The position of the law is that what is admitted need no further proof.
“The court is to settle the issue of the candidate of the second defendant.
“The court is bound by its record…
” My conclusion, the plaintiff remains the candidate of the party.
“I therefore order INEC to declare Ararume as the candidate of the APC and I order that INEC issues certificate of return to the plaintiff within 72 hours,” he said.
The Supreme Court, in another application, had dismissed Ararume’s application against Ibezim, adding that Ibezim (an APC contestant and first respondent in the case), was not granted fair hearing by a trial court which ruled against him.
The Appeal Court, Abuja had also affirmed the Justice Inyang Ekwo’s disqualification of Ibezim over inconsistent information in the school certificate he tendered to INEC and APC. This was after the lawyers had agreed that the apex court’s judgement had no bearing on its verdict.
Justice Taiwo had earlier declined to give any verdict until he thoroughly perused the judgement of the higher courts. This was after counsels for the parties had argued how the higher court’s judgement favored their clients.
On its part, INEC had said that it was relying on the court to announce the actual winner of the Imo state bye-election.
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