From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal has affirmed the disqualification of Imo North Senator-elect, Chukwuma Francis Ibezim as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the December 5, 2020 by-election.
Ibezim was disqualified as the party’s candidate on account of irreconcilable differences in the names on the certificates he presented to secure nomination and for supplying false information in his other documents.
A three man panel of Justices of the Court presided by Justice Abubakar Yahaya in a unanimous judgment agreed with Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja that Ibezim submitted false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the Imo North Senatorial by-elction.
Justice Ekwo had in a judgment delivered on December 4, 2020 sacked Ibezim as candidate of the APC for the December 5 by-election in Imo North Senatorial District.
Ekwo had disqualified him from contesting the election on the grounds that he made false statements and declarations in the affidavit and documents he submitted to his party, the APC and INEC.
The false information was in respect of his West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate wherein the judge held that the names on the documents were not only different but irreconcilable and accordingly ordered his disqualification from the by-elction.
One of the certificates bears Chukwuemeka Frank Ibezim and another Francis Ibezim Chukwuemeka among other differences.
Dissatisfied with the high court decision, Ibezim, the favoured candidate of governor Hope Uzodimma, then approached the Appeal Court with prayer that his disqualification be voided and set aside.
However delivering judgment in the appeal, Justice Stephen Adah who read the unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal held that the judgment of the high court cannot be faulted since it was evident that the appellant submitted false information to APC and INEC.
Justice Adah stated that no other person order than the institution that awarded certificates can lawfully effect correction on them.
He advised that candidates must be diligent with the ways and manners they put their names in documents, stressing that it is a serious thing if a person’s name is misplaced or spelt wrongly.
The court also disagreed with Ibezim that the case was statute barred, adding that from available records, it was filed 11 days after the cause of action arose and not after 14 days as claimed by Ibezim. .
According to the appellate court, the legal action was instituted on September 23, 2020 whereas INEC had received the said forged documents from the APC on September 13, 2020.
“The appeal by the appellant (Ibezim) lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed”, Justice Adah said.