The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed two appeals by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, in which he sought among others, to be made the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last by-election in Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State.
A five-man panel of the court, headed by Justice Amina Augie, in two judgments, affirmed the judgments of the Court of Appeal, Owerri division, which voided the proceedings and decisions in the suit filed by Lady Uchenna Onyeiwu Ubah before the Federal High Court in Owerri.
The judgments delivered on Thursday were on the appeals marked: SC/971/2020 and SC/972/2020 filed by Ararume. The court said the judgments should be applied to the cross-appeal, marked: SC/1060/2020 filed Dr. Edith Chidinma Uwajimogu, in which she sought to have Ararume declared as the candidate of the APC.
Justice Tijani Abubakar, who prepared the lead judgments, said, after reviewing all the arguments by parties and the records, the court found that the appeals were without merit.
Justice Abubakar said: “I hold the view that the lower court (Court of Appeal) was right in coming to the conclusion that the first respondent (Ibezim) was shut out and denied of his right to be heard as a necessary party in the suit at the trial court (Federal High Court).
“Therefore, the proceedings of the trial court constitute a nullity and must be struck out. Appellant’s appeal, therefore, lacked merit and it is hereby dismissed.
“The decision of the lower court, setting aside the judgment of the trial court is hereby affirmed. Parties are to bear their respective costs,” Justice Abubakar said.
Other members of the panel, Justices Augie, Uwani Abba-Aji, Samuel Oseji and Emmanuel Agim, all agreed with the lead judgment.
Ubah had sued shortly after the APC’s primary election, preparatory to the December 5, 2020 by-election, praying the court to, among others, compel the APC to submit the name of Chukwuma Frank Ibezim to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its candidate for the election.
In a judgment, the Federal High Court rejected her prayers. on the grounds that Ubah lacked the locus standi to have filed the suit. The court proceeded to disqualify Ibezim as the party’s candidate and ordered INEC to accept Ararume as APC’s candidate for the by-election.
Both Ubah and Ibezim appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal, Owerri. While Ubah faulted the trial court for holding the she lacked the requisite locus standi, Ibezim argued that his right to fair hearing was breached by the Federal High Court, which ordered his disqualification in a suit in which he was not a party.
In its judgments in both appeals, the Court of Appeal, Owerri agreed that Ubah lacked the locus standi and also held that Ibezim”s right to fair hearing was breached. It proceeded to set aside all the the orders disqualifying Ibezim and directing INEC to accept Ararume as the candidate of the APC.
Dissatisfied, Ararume appealed at the Supreme Court, praying the court to among others, set aside the decisions by the Court of Appeal and restore the earlier judgement by the Federal High Court.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has scheduled judgments for 12noon on Saturday in the appeals relating to the judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, disqualifying Ibezim after finding that he submitted doubtful academic credentials to INEC.
The judgment delivered by Justice Ekwo on December 4, 2020 was in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1229/2020 filed by Asomugha Tony Elebeke, with Ibezim, APC and INEC as defendants.
Justice Ekwo found that the WASC certificate Ibezim submitted to his party, which the APC in turn handed to INEC, contained different and irreconcilable names – Ibezim Chukwuma Frank and Ibezim Francis Chukwuma.
The judge said: “There is something wrong with these results. The defence of the 1st defendant per the averments in paragraphs 26, 27, 28 and 29 of his counter-affidavit has not explained the variations in the three respective result sheets, neither have the said averments debunked the fact that Exhibits. A26, 27 and 28 were submitted to the 3rd defendant by the 2nd defendant or that the certified true copies of these exhibits were not obtained from the 3rdefendant.
“The 1st defendant, having not taken any step to controvert the case of plaintiff concerning the falsity of Exhibits A26, A27 and A28 has therefore allowed the case of the plaintiff to remain uncontroverted.
“I therefore find that Exhibits A26, A27 and A28 submitted are not authentic results and are self-contradictory. Therefore, they are false in all material particular and I so hold. I resolve issue one in favour of the plaintiff.
The judge found that Ibezim failed to prove that the various names in his credentials are one and the same.