Friday, 5 February 2021

Imo North Senatorial Seat: Supreme Court Dashes Ararume’s Hopes, upholds Ibezim

 The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed two appeals by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, in which he sought among others, court order to declare him the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last bye-election for the 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 Friday 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, he, “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.

Ubah had sued shortly after the APC’s primary election, preparatory to the December 5, 2020 bye-election, praying the court to, among others, compel the APC to submit the name of Chukwuma Frank Ibezim to INEC as its candidate for the election.

The Federal High Court, in its judgment, rejected her prayers. on the grounds that Ubah lacked the locus standi to have filed the suit and 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 that she lacked the requisite locus standi, Ibezim argued that his right to a 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 a fair hearing was breached.

It proceeded to set aside all the orders disqualifying Ibezim and another one 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 judgment by the Federal High Court.

The Supreme Court dismissed both appeals by Ararume in the two unanimous judgments delivered yesterday.

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