The Supreme Court yesterday declined to dismiss a suit filed by Senator Ifeanyi Araraume seeking to set-aside a Court of Appeal judgement that sacked him as the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Imo North Senatorial by-election that held on December 5, 2020. The apex court in two separate unanimous decisions by a five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Amina Augie, said it found no reason to dislodge the verdict of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, which declared Frank Ibezim as candidate of the APC for the poll.
In the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Tijani Abubakar, the Supreme Court held that the appellate court was right to nullify the judgement of the Federal High Court in Owerri, which had earlier recognised Ararume as APC’s senatorial candidate.
The two judgments delivered yesterday were on appeals marked: SC/971/2020 and SC/972/2020, which were filed by Ararume. The apex court said its judgments in the two appeals would also apply to a cross-appeal marked: SC/1060/2020, which Dr. Edith Chidinma Uwajimogu filed for Ararume to be declared as the candidate of the APC. While dismissing the appeals, Justice Abubakar held that: “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 his right to be heard as a necessary party in the suit at the trial 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”. Other members of the apex court panel that concurred with the lead judgement were Justices Augie, Uwani Abba- Aji, Samuel Oseji and Emmanuel Agim. Saturday Telegraph recalled that Lady Uchenna Onyeiwu Ubah had shortly after the APC held its primary election ahead of the senatorial by-election went to court for an order to compel the party to submit Ibezim’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as its candidate for the election.
However, the Federal High Court in Owerri, in a judgement it delivered on November 6, 2020, dismissed the suit on the premise that she lacked the locus standi to institute the action. The court went ahead and disqualified Ibezim and ordered INEC to accept Ararume as APC’s candidate for the by-election. Dissatisfied with the judgement, both Ubah and Ibezim went to the Court of Appeal in Owerri to challenge it. While Ubah insisted that the trial court wrongly held that she lacked the requisite locus standi to institute the action, Ibezim, contended that his right to fair hearing was breached by the court.
Ibezim argued that the trial court made declaration against him, even though he was not a party to the suit. In its judgement, the appel late court affirmed that Ubah was bereft of locus standi to maintain the legal action.
It, however, held that the Ibezim’s right to fair hearing was breached by the trial court. Consequently, the appellate court proceeded to set aside the order that disqualified Ibezim and directed INEC to recognise him as APC candidate and not Ararume. Not happy with the verdict, Ararume took the case before the Supreme Court, where he lost the appeal on Friday. IINEC had at the end of the Imo North Senatorial byelection, returned the APC as the winner.