By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will appeal the judgment directing it to issue a Certificate of Return to former Governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha in spite issuing the certificate to him.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that INEC had issued certificate of return to Okorocha around 6 p.m. on Tuesday as winner of Imo West Senatorial District election held Feb. 23.
Okorocha, who commended INEC for issuing him the certificate, said that he saw it as God’s time.
Okorocha commended the judiciary for doing the needful and for being there at the needed time as well as serve as the last resort for the common citizens or anybody that felt oppressed.
“I also want to thank INEC for taking this bold step against all odds by issuing my certificate of return, which goes a long way to confirming that the allegation of duress was unfounded by a delay tactic by my detractors to slow down the process.
“I believe this is God’s time and I take it as God’s time. I am happy that finally the matter is resolved,” Okorocha said.
But INEC in a statement issued by Mr Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC on Tuesday in Abuja said the commission issued the certificate to Okorocha in compliance with an Abuja Federal High Court that directed it to do so.
Okoye said the issuance of the certificate to Okorocha once again demonstrated its commitment to obeying court judgment, including those it might have reservations.
He said that the decision was reached on Tuesday after the commission met and considered 14 Memoranda involving judgments and orders in pre-election matters relating to the issuance of certificates and or withdrawal of certificates already issued in pre-election matters.
“Amongst the memoranda considered, is the one concerning the judgment on the Imo West Senatorial district by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The Commission decided to comply with the court judgment by issuing a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Rochas Okorocha in compliance with the judgment and Orders of Hon. Justice Okon Abang.
“It will also appeal against the said judgment.”
Okoye said that in arriving at the decision, the commission also took into consideration, the orders issued by two High Courts in Owerri Judicial Division.
He said the orders were issued in suits No. HOW/ 596/2019 issued on May 23, 2019 and another dated the June 11, 2019 issued in suit No. HOW/663/2019 restraining the commission from issuing certificate of return in respect of the said senatorial district.
The national commissioner said that INEC noted that both were interim orders issued ex parte and not final orders of court.
Okoye said that in obeying the judgment, the commission was demonstrating, once again, its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of court, including those with which it may have reservations.
“However, the commission must put on record its very profound concerns about the likely consequences of this judgment for our electoral process in particular and our democracy in general.
“Obviously, persons who seek elective offices can perceive in this judgment an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law.
“It is not far-fetched that some of them can in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilise 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,” he said.
Okoye restated INEC’s 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.”