By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Saturday, upheld the disqualification of Sir Chuwuma Ibezim as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Senatorial by-election that held in Imo North on December 5, 2020.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, affirmed the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to remove Ibezim’s name from the list of candidates for the by-election, after it found him guilty of submitting falsified documents.
The high court judgement followed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1229/2020, which was filed against Ibezim by Asomugha Elebeke.
Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo had in the judgement he delivered on December 4, 2020, barely 24 hours to the by-election, disqualified Ibezim for allegedly making false statements/declarations in the affidavit and documents he tendered to both the APC and INEC.
The court held that evidence before it showed that Ibezim presented falsified and uncertified photocopies of his West African Examination Council, WAEC, certificate.
Cited as 2nd and 3rd Defendants in the matter were the APC and INEC.
Specifically, Justice Ekwo found that the WASC certificate that was submitted by the 1st Defendant bore two different and irreconcilable names, Ibezim Chukwuma Frank and Ibezim Francis Chukwuma.
The court held that Ibezim was “not qualified/ eligible for nomination to contest the Imo North Senatorial By-Election, having made false declarations in the affidavit and certificates he submitted to INEC for the purpose of contesting the IMO North Senatorial by-election, and the irreconcilable conflicts in his names”.
It, therefore, barred INEC from accepting him as the candidate of the APC for the senatorial by-election
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Ibezim took the case before the appellate court where he lost on Saturday.
The appellate court, in its lead judgement that was read by Justice Stephen Adah, said it found no reason to interfere with the verdict of the trial court which is described as “unassailable”.
Consequently, it dismissed Ibezim’s appeal for want of merit, though it declined to award any cost against him.
The Supreme Court had on Friday, also dismissed an appeal Senator Ifeanyi Araraume filed to challenge a Court of Appeal judgement that sacked him as the authentic candidate of the APC in the same Imo North Senatorial by-election.
The apex court, in two separate unanimous decisions by a five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Amina Augie, declined to set-aside the verdict of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, which had earlier declared Frank Ibezim as the candidate of the APC for the poll.
It held that the appellate court was right to nullify the judgement of the Federal High Court in Owerri, which had recognised Ararume as APC’s senatorial candidate.
It will be recalled that INEC had at the end of the Imo North Senatorial by-election, returned the APC as the winner.
The electoral body based its decision not to return any candidate for the party on the fact that there were many court decisions, for and against the two main contenders for the APC ticket- Ararume and Ibezim.