Imo North: Supreme Court affirms Ibezim as Senator-elect
In reaching its verdict, the supreme court voided, nullified, and set aside concurrent judgments of the Federal high court in Abuja and the Court of Appeal, both of which nullified Ibezim’s candidacy on the basis of perjury.
The suit that led to Ibezim’s disqualification for allegedly providing false information to secure nomination was law barred at the time it was filed, according to Justice Emmanuel Agim, who delivered the decision.
The suit was not brought within 14 days after the cause of action emerged, according to Justice Agim’s ruling.
The apex court held that the appellant in the suit had grossly violated section 285 of the 1999 since the required 14-day deadline for filing such a suit had not been met.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled that Ibezim’s disqualification was null and void because the burden of proof for false information claims was not met as required by law.
Although setting aside the judgments of the federal high court and the Court of Appeal, Justice Agim found that Ibezim’s appeal against the two judgments was meritorious and enforceable, and he granted it.
Following that, the Supreme Court named Ibezim as the All Progressives Congress (APC) nominee and election winner in the December 5, 2020 by-election.
Ibezim had been disqualified as an APC nominee due to irreconcilable discrepancies in the names on the certificates he submitted to obtain nomination, as well as for including misleading details in his other papers.
In a unanimous judgement, a three-man panel of Justices of the Court, presided over by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, agreed with Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that Ibezim gave false details to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to qualify for the Imo North Senatorial by-election.
Justice Ekwo had sacked Ibezim as the APC’s nominee for the December 5 by-election in Imo North Senatorial District in a judgement issued on December 4, 2020.
On the grounds that he made false statements and declarations in the affidavit and documents he submitted to his campaign, the APC, and INEC, Ekwo had disqualified him from contesting the election.
The false information was allegedly in relation to his West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate, with the judge ruling that the names on the papers were not only different, but also irreconcilable, and thereby disqualifying him from the by-election.
Among the variations between the certificates are Chukwuemeka Frank Ibezim on one and Francis Ibezim Chukwuemeka on the other.
Dissatisfied with the high court decision, Ibezim, governor Hope Uzodimma’s preferred candidate, petitioned the Appeal Court to have his disqualification revoked and set aside.
However, Justice Stephen Adah, who read the unanimous judgement of the Court of Appeal in the appeal, held that the high court’s judgement could not be faulted because it was clear that the appellant provided false details to the APC and INEC.
No one else, according to Justice Adah, may legally correct certificates other than the organisation that issued them.
He urged candidates to be careful how and where they write their names in papers, emphasising that it is a serious matter if a person’s name is misspelt or misplaced.
The appeal court also disagreed with Ibezim’s assertion that the case was law barred, noting that it was brought 11 days after the cause of action arose, not 14 days as Ibezim said.
The legal action was filed on September 23, 2020, according to the appellate court, while INEC obtained the forged documents from the APC on September 13, 2020.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will now proceed to formally declare Ibezim the winner of the election and issue him the certificate of return necessary by law for him to be inaugurated as a senator, thanks to the Supreme Court’s new decision.