Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue certificate of Return to former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.
The court also ordered INEC to publish Okorocha’s name in its list of winners of the 2019 National Assembly Election, having been declared winner of the Imo West Senatorial District election of February 23, 2019.
Justice Abang gave the order while delivering judgment in the suit filed by Okorocha challenging the refusal of INEC to issue him with Certificate of Return, having won the senatorial set with majority lawful votes cast at the election.
According to the judgment, the electoral body lacks the lawful authority to withhold the Certificate of Return to Okorocha, winner of the Imo West Senatorial District election.
Okorocha was declared winner of the February 23 senatorial election in Imo State, however his name was omitted in the INEC list of winners of the senatorial election. The electoral umpire further refused to issue him Certificate of Return on grounds that the Returning Officer for the senatorial election was forced to announce Okorocha as winner of the election.
Okorocha accordingly approached the court to compel INEC to issue him Certificate of Return, having been declared winner of the Senatorial election by INEC’s Returning Officer for the Imo West Senatorial election.
But in his judgment, Justice Abang, declared that INEC’s unilateral decision to withhold Okorocha’s Certificate of Return is unlawful utra vires, null and void.
Justice Abang insisted that INEC’s decision which has no legal justification cannot be allowed to stand so as not to create problems for the polity.
According to Abang if the electoral body’s action is condoned, election can easily be cancelled on mere claims of acting under duress by returning Officers.
Abang accordingly slammed a cost of N200k against INEC and N100k each against the other seven defendants.