A week after the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Saturday, February 6 upheld the disqualification of Sir Chukwuma Ibezim as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the senatorial election that held in Imo North on December 5, 2020, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has pledged to honor the ruling.
In a response to THEWILL enquiry over its silence since the appellate court ruling, the electoral umpire said it would take appropriate action on the judgment.
Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said it was in the organization’s character to respect court ruling.
He said: “ What I can assure you is that the Independent National Electoral Commission will always comply with legitimate court judgements. We always do. Indeed, INEC does not disobey court orders/ judgement.”
The Appeal 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 INEC to remove Ibezim’z name from the list of candidates for the by-election after it found him guilty of submitting falsified documents.
In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1229/2020, filed against Ibezim by Asomugha Ebeleke, the trail Judge, Inyang Ekwo had in the judgement delivered on December 4, 2020 disqualified Ibezim for making false declaration in his affidavit and documents he tendered to INEC and APC.
Ibezim, the court said, presented falsified and uncertified photocopies of his West African Examinations Council, WAEC, certified. Justice Ekwo said Ibezim’s certificate contained different and irreconcilable names, namely, Chuckwuma Frank and Ibezim Francis Chukwuma. Ibezim appealed the case and lost on Saturday 6, 2021. Justice Stephen Adah of the Appeal Court said he found no reason to interfere with the verdict of the trail court and so dismissed Ibezim’s appeal.
In another judgement, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. Challenging a Court of Appeal judgement that dismissed him as the real candidate of the APC in the same, disputed senatorial by-election.
Justice Amina Augie five-man led panel of the apex court refused to set aside the verdict of the Appeal Court ruling, which had earlier declared Ibezim as the candidate of the APC.
It would be recalled that the INEC had at the end of the conduct of the Imo North Senatorial by-election, held on December 5, 2019, returned the APC as the winner. The Commission 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, Ibezim and Araruma. In the declared results, the APC polled 36, 811 votes while the PDP polled 31, 903 votes.
Emmanuel Ekwelonu was the PDP candidate.