Court orders INEC to issue Okorocha’s Certificate of Return

…we’ll obey order, says INEC

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja, on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Rochas Okorocha, a Certificate of Return.

The Court ruled that the decision to deprive Okorocha of the certificate was a “lawless decision.”

Abang held that only the returning officer of the INEC had the constitutional authority to declare a winner.

He held that any person declared a winner by the returning officer remains a winner until petitioners succeed in upturning the declaration at the election tribunal.

The court further ruled that Mr Okorocha had no business being the originator of the petition at the election tribunal.

Justice Abang, who ruled that the federal high court had exclusive jurisdiction to decide on the matter, described INEC’s decision as “lawless and a complete nullity.”

The electoral body had said it refused to give Okorocha certificate of return after the returning officer for Imo West senatorial district said he was compelled to declare Okorocha winner.

Meanwhile, INEC has said it would obey the judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by the Hon. Justice Okon Abang, directing the Commission to issue a Certificate of Return to Rochas Okorocha as the Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.

Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education Committee, INEC, in a statement, said the commission had been drawn to the judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by the Hon. Justice Okon Abang, directing the Commission to issue a Certificate of Return to Okorocha.

He said the commission was also aware of and had been served with the order of a High Court of Imo State, presided over by Hon. Justice Njemanze, directing the Commission not to issue a Certificate of Return to any of the candidates who contested the Imo West Senatorial District election.

“The Order from the High Court of Imo State was issued on 23rd May, 2019 and the suit has been further adjourned to 26th June, 2019.

“The Commission is aware that the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court, Abuja is the latest in time and determined the rights of the parties in relation to the subject matter of the Certificate of Return, in respect of the Imo West Senatorial Election,” he said.

According to him, INEC was currently undertaking State level reviews of the 2019 general elections and that all the National Commissioners were either in or heading to their States of supervision to coordinate activities relating to the said review.

“In view of the import and directives of the said judgement, the Commission will meet as soon as practicable to do the needful. As a law-abiding institution, the Commission will continue to obey judgement of all courts of competent jurisdiction,” he stated.

Okoye, however, noted that the Commission’s overriding consideration was the safety of its ad-hoc staff, electoral officers and collation/returning officers and was worried that if electoral impunity was allowed to flourish, any individual could harass, intimidate and put the Commission’s officers under duress, procure a favourable declaration and be rewarded with a Certificate of Return.

 

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