By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
So, who does INEC obey as an Imo state High Court in Owerri has issued what appears to be a countermanding order of interim injunction to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to recognise Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the winner of the December 2020 Imo North Senatorial candidate of the All progressives Congress (APC)?
A Federal High Court in Abuja, earlier same Thursday, gave INEC 72 hour to give the embattled former Senator a Certificate of Return.
The Imo injunction restrains INEC from issuing Ararume a certificate of return or any other instrument in his favor in respect of the said election pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice in the suit.
Justice E.O Agaba of the Owerri High Court’s order followed an application by motion exparte brought to it by The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), one Mr. Kelechi Soribe a member of the Imo State working committee of APGA, and five others against Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, INEC and the APC.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare Chief Ifeanyi Ararume the winner of the December 5, 2020 bye-election for the Imo North Senatorial District of Imo state.
Justice Taiwo Oladipupo Taiwo held in a judgment that Ararume remained the authentic candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the election as at today and should be declared winner of that election.
The Judge also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to Ararume within 72 hours from the delivery of the judgment for him to be formally inaugurated by the Senate President.
Justice Taiiwo dimissed the preliminary objection filed by the APC and one Chukwuma Francis Ibezim challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain Ararume’s suit.
The Judge held that the objection lacked merit because Ibezim, being purported by APC as its candidate in the by-election had been disqualified by a federal high court and later Court of Appeal, for supplying false information to INEC to secure clearance for participation in the election.
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 that the judgments of the high court and later the Court of Appeal have conclusively disqualified Ibezim and he cannot claim to be an aspirant or candidate in the Imo North Senatatorial election.
In opposing Ararume’s suit, APC had told court that it never fielded Ararume for the senatorial bye-election for Imo North Senatatorial district of Imo state.
The party insisted that Ararume lacked locus standi to lay claim to the candidacy because he did not even come second in the primary election conducted for candidate nomination and urged the court to dismiss his suit.
Ararume had dragged the INEC, APC and Ibezim before the Federal High Court praying for an order to compel INEC to recognize him as a APC senatorial candidate in the election won by the party
He claimed that Ibezim, having been disqualified by a Federal High Court on account of supplying false information to INEC to secure clearance, and the disquaification having been upheld by the Court of Appeal in Abuja had knocked off Ibezim from laying any claim to the outcome of the by-election.
But, the APC, through its counsel, Osho Daudu asked the court to discontenance 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.
Emma Osayomi, representing Ibezim, in his own submissions had said that his client has approached the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification on account of variation in his name.
The counsel argued that as at the election day, the name of his client was on the INEC list and not that of Ararume and urged the court to dismiss Ararume’s claims and hold that Chukwuemeka Francis Ibezim remains the APC candidate.