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Court orders INEC to pay Okorocha for withholding certificate of return

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to pay N200,000 to a former Imo State, governor, Rochas Okorocha, for failing to recognise him as the winner of the 2019 senatorial election in the state.

The court, in a judgement that lasted over four hours, chided INEC for its failure to issue a certificate of return to Mr Okorocha on allegations he compelled the returning officer of his electoral district, Innocent Ibeabuchi, to declare him the winner of the elections, ‘under duress’.

The court presided over by Okon Abang also awarded a fine of N100, 000 each against the second to the eighth defendant in the matter, in favour of Mr Okorocha.

According to the judge, INEC acted illegally when it decided to exclude Mr Okorocha from the list of elected senators despite a declaration by the commission’s returning officer that Mr Okorocha had won the election.

After declaring Mr Okorocha winner of the February, 23 senatorial elections in the state, Mr Ibeabuchi later alleged that he was forced to do so.

Following the allegation, INEC excluded the name of Mr Okorocha from its list of newly elected senators and announced its resolve to deprive Mr Okorocha of the certificate of return.

Subsequently, the former governor approached the court with several requests aimed at clarifying the validity of INEC’s decision.

On Friday, Mr Abang ruled that his court had jurisdiction to determine the validity or otherwise of the decision reached by INEC and nullified the said decision, with consequential orders against INEC and the defendants.

“Since the reliefs of the plaintiff touch on the validity of INEC in refusing to release the results, this court has explicit jurisdiction to determine whether that decision by INEC is valid or not,” Mr Abang ruled.

“After the issuance of form EC8E1 and the declaration of the winner made, that declaration is conclusive, pending the determination of an election tribunal,” he added.

Mr Abang said INEC had no power to act as it did, adding that such an action implied the creation of new laws by INEC.
“It is not fair that INEC behaved the way that it did. The report of the returning officer that he declared the result under duress is in the realm of an allegation,” said Mr Abang, who added that the allegation could be false.

According to Mr Abang, the decision by INEC to acknowledge the allegation of its returning officer against other factors which suggested peaceful conduct of the election was detrimental to Nigeria’s democracy.

“INEC cannot introduce dangerous precedence in our electoral jurisprudence. If it’s not checked, returning officers in future can decide to allege duress, knowing that the certificate will not be issued.

“INEC cannot hide under section 75 (2) of the electoral act to refuse to issue a certificate if a return to the plaintiff.

“INEC did not declare that the election in issue was inconclusive. INEC did not declare another person winner,” Mr Abang said.

The judge ruled that Mr Okorocha remains the winner of the election and his recognition by the commission, “cannot be delayed one minute longer.”

 

 

– Premium Times

 

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About Delia Innoma

Delia Innoma is a prolific writer, promoter, artist manager with full professional proficiency in English, German and Igbo languages. She studied accounting and computer programming at the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu and Germany respectively. Delia is also a devoted mother of two and she founded the Diamond Celebrities Magazine. Her sense of responsibility and commitment to the Christian faith are essential forces driving her daily activities.

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