BY RALPH EJIMKOMYE
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Friday, opened up on the Imo North Senatorial bye election, giving reasons why it declared the All Progressive Congress, APC, winner of the election, but did not return any candidate.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Head, Information and Voter Education, in an interview with Arise tv and monitored by INNONEWS, said all the court judgments pertaining to the candidacy of the APC, never directed that the name and logo of the party be taken off from the ballot papers.
Prior to the election, there was legal fireworks, as the Appeal Court, Owerri, and Federal High Court, Abuja, respectively sacked Frank Ibezim and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as candidate(s) of the APC for the Okigwe senate polls.
According to Okoye, the electorate voted for political parties and not for the candidates, stating that was the reason why the ballot papers did not bear the names of candidates vying for the election.
” It is important to put the issues in context when analysing the challenge in Imo North Senatorial Senatorial bye election.
“After the APC party primaries, the party submitted the name of Francis Chukwuma Ibezim, to INEC as the candidate of the political party, and the Commission in accordance with the Electoral Act, section 31 of the Electoral Act, published the name of Ibezim as the candidate of the APC.
“Thereafter one lady, Uchenna Uba went to the Federal High Court, Owerri and got an Order to the effect that Ibezim was not the candidate of APC, and the Court made an Order that the person who won the party primaries was Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
“And we were ordered to replace the name of Ibezim with that of Araraume, and INEC complied with that Order.
Okoye added that “on the eve of the election, INEC was served with a Court Order from the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, to the effect that the Federal High Court, Owerri that gave the order that Araraume should be placed on the list of candidates did not have requisite jurisdiction to entertain the matter, and the case was accordingly struck out which made the Commission to revert to status quo, to which made the Commission to return the name of Ibezim
He continued ” On the eve of the election, the Commission was also served with another Court Order from the Federal High Court in Abuja, in a suit that was instituted by one Tony Elebeke, which ordered that the said Ibezim was not eligible to be nominated and was not qualified to contest the election.
“And having been served with that particular Order, we now removed the name of Ibezim as the candidate of the party” he said.