SAN FRANCISCO, June 11, (THEWILL) – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday said it had grudgingly issued a Certificate of Return to Rochas Okorocha, winner of the Imo West Senatorial election as directed by a judge.
INEC had declined to recognize Okorocha as winner because the Returning Officer for that election said he declared the politician winner under duress. The agency said allowing such underhand maneuver allegedly executed by Okorocha unchallenged could taint the democratic process.
The Commission therefore said it would appeal the ruling at the Court of Appeal.
INEC National Commissioner in Charge of Information and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye in a statement said; “The Commission must put on record its very profound concerns about the likely consequences of this judgement for our electoral process in particular and our democracy in general. Obviously, persons who seek elective offices could perceive in this judgement an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law. It is not farfetched that some of them could in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilize thugs and compel Returning Officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of elections.
“Moreover, it may become increasingly difficult for the Commission to convince its officials that they are safe to carry out their legitimate functions without fear of being harassed, held to ransom or visited with bodily harm.
INEC had met on Tuesday and considered 14 memoranda involving Judgements and Orders in pre-election matters relating to the issuance of Certificates and or withdrawal of Certificates already issued in pre-election matters.
Among the Memoranda considered was that concerning the judgement on the lmo West Senatorial District by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Okoye said, the Commission decided to “comply with the Court judgement by issuing a Certificate of Return to the Plaintiff, Rochas Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha in compliance with the judgement and Orders of Hon. Justice O.E. Abang”.
He added that INEC will “appeal against the said judgement”, saying “in arriving at this decision, the Commission also took into consideration the Orders issued by two High Courts in the Owerri Judicial Division in Suits No. HOW/S96/2019 issued on the 23rd day of May 2019 and another dated the 11th June, 2019 issued in Suit No. HOW/663/2019 restraining the Commission from issuing Certificate of Return in respect of the said Senatorial District. It is noted that both are interim orders issued Ex Parte and not final orders of Court. Certificate of return:
“In obeying the judgement, the Commission is demonstrating once again its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of court, including those with which it may have reservations.
“However, the Commission would like to seize this opportunity to restate its commitment to due process and obedience to the Rule of Law in its dealings with all parties and candidates. We assure Nigerians that we will not waiver in our determination to enthrone a credible electoral process in Nigeria”, the statement added.