The Federal High Court in Abuja, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to immediately issue the certificate of return to the immediate-past Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, as the senator-elect for the Imo West Senatorial District.
Justice Okon Abang made this order on Friday, in his judgment on the suit filed by Okorocha to challenge INEC’s decision to withhold his certificate of return after being declared winner of February 23, 2019, National Assembly election in the Imo West Senatorial District.
INEC had based its decision to withhold the certificate of return on the grounds that its Returning Officer, who presided over the election complained that he declared the results under duress.
The judge, who described INEC’s action as “lawless and arbitrary,” held in that Okorocha having been declared the winner of the election, INEC no longer had any legal authority to withhold the certificate of return due to him.
“Once the declaration is made under section 68(c) of the Electoral Act, INEC has become functus officio and INEC has no lawful authority to withhold the certificate of return for any reason whatsoever.
“Therefore the issue of duress is unknown to both the Electoral Act and the Constitution,” the judge stated.
The court ruled that Okorocha remained elected subject to the outcome of the ongoing proceedings of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.
He, therefore, ordered, “INEC shall forthwith publish and circulate the name of the plaintiff as the senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District.
“It is hereby ordered that INEC shall forthwith issue a certificate of return as the senator-elect representing senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District.”