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INEC says court to resolve controversial Imo North senatorial by-election

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Why we will not act on tribunal judgements now –INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured that the court would soon decide the legitimate winner of the controversial Imo North senatorial by-election.

The All Progressives Congress (APC), whose two candidates, Ifeanyi Araraume and Frank Ibezim were disqualified from participating in the election by different court rulings, was announced by INEC as the winner of the poll with 36,110 votes.

Ripples Nigeria had reported that while a Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri sacked Araraume as the APC candidate, a Federal High Court ruling in Abuja sacked Ibezim from the senatorial by-election.

Already, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Imo North senatorial bye-election, Emmanuel Okewulonu, who came second in the election with 31,903 votes, had since called on INEC to declare him as the winner of the poll since the APC had no candidate going into the election.

But speaking on how the controversy will be resolved, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said when he appeared on Arise TV on Friday:

“Three things may likely happen in the Imo North Senatorial By-election. One of the candidates is already in the Supreme Court and the issue in the Supreme Court is whether the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first place and whether the matter was decided first within the domestic realm of the party.

“If the Supreme Court determines that the court of first instance has jurisdiction over the matter, the implication is that Senator Ifeanyi Araraume becomes the candidate of the party and will now be returned as duly elected.

“If on the other hand, the Supreme Court determines that the Court of Appeal was right in striking out the matter and that the court of first instance does not have jurisdiction over the matter, that means that Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is out of the contest.

READ ALSO: PDP candidate gives reasons INEC must disqualify APC, declare him winner of Imo North by-election

“In relation to the Federal High Court Abuja, if the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court make a determination that Frank Ibezim was not qualified to contest the election, the implication is that the APC does not have a candidate in the election. That will now leave the Commission with no option than to declare the party with highest number of lawful votes as the winner of the election.

“But if on the other hand, the matter filed in the Federal High Court Abuja goes up to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court makes a determination that Frank Ibezim was qualified to contest the election, the implication is that the Commission will now declare Frank Ibezim as the winner of that election.

“Ultimately, it is the court that will determine this particular matter because if you look at the list of candidates, for the APC, we only left the name and logo of the party there with a caveat; ‘By Court Order’. So, it is very clear to us that the court will have the final say in relation to who is the candidate of the party.

“Because of the timelines we have in the determination of electoral matters, the Court of Appeal has 60 days to make a determination and the Supreme Court has 60 days to make a determination. I believe very soon, the people of Imo North Senatorial District will know who their true representative is.”

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