The out-going governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha has again pressed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to release “his certificate of return” as “senator-elect,” saying the electoral body lacks the power to withhold it.
Mr. Okorocha, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 23 Imo West senatorial election, believes he won the election. But INEC insists that there was no winner because the returning officer said he declared Okorocha winner “under duress.”
With the swearing of senators only days away, the Imo governor again on Tuesday petitioned INEC, demanding the release of “his certificate of return.”
In the petition titled, ‘Need to Avert Abuse of Office and Political Corruption by my Political Opponents with the Active Collaboration of INEC’s Leadership in Clear Violation of the Law,’ was addressed to the Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Mr. Okorocha claimed that going by the laws governing elections in the country, INEC had no right not to issue him a certificate of return.
According to him, if there were issues with an election after the announcement of a winner, the Election Petitions Tribunal is there to resolve them.
He said, “Section 285(1) of the 1999 Constitution states that ‘There shall be established for the Federation one or more election tribunals to be known as the National Assembly Elections Tribunal which shall, to the exclusion of any court or tribunal, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions as to whether (a) any person has been validly elected as a member of the National Assembly.’
“Section 133 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that ‘No election and return at an election under this Act shall be questioned in a manner other than by a petition complaining of an undue election or an undue return presented to the competent tribunal or court in accordance with the provisions of the constitution or of this Act, and in which the person elected or returned is joined as a party.’
“Where then did INEC derive the power to withhold a certificate of return after a winner in an election had been announced?”
However CHECKPOINTCHARLEY is of the view that, if actually Okorocha was declared winner under duress like INEC said, there was no winner in that election, as the victory would have been obtained by fraud or unlawfully. INEC is not obliged by law to recognise or issue certificate of return to candidates who “illegtimately” emerged victorious in elections.
At law, the so-called declaration of Okorocha as the winner of the Imo-West senatorial election by the returning officer, under duress, will be seen as if nothing happened abinitio.
Such a declaration, obtained by fraud or through unlawful means cannot ground a claim to a certificcate of return.
Be this as it may, Mr Okorocha had also rightly sued INEC and only the court can nullify INEC’s position by holding that the declaration of Okorocha as winner was not made under duress, after considering the facts of the case. If the court arrives at this conclusion, it could then order INEC to issue (not release) the Imo governor a certificate of return.
If Okorocha fails to get this relief and/or on time, he might watch the inauguration of the 9th Senate on television.