Imo State governor and Imo West senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last National Assembly elections, Rochas Okorocha, has said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the power to withhold his certificate of return or reverse his election victory after being declared winner of the Imo West senatorial election.
In his petition to INEC on Tuesday, Okorocha said he was not happy that the body decided to withhold his certificate of return after he was announced as the winner of the election.
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 INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
INEC had refused to issue a certificate of return to Okorocha despite being announced the winner of the election because the Returning Officer for the election, Professor Francis Ibeawuchi, said the declaration of Okorocha as winner of the election was made under duress.
But according to the governor, going by the laws governing elections in the country, since the election had been concluded and a winner announced, INEC had no right not to issue him a certificate of return.
He added that if there were issues with an election after the announcement of a winner, the Election Petitions Tribunal would resolve them.
Okorocha cited Section 285 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that, “there shall be established for the Federation one or more elections tribunal 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.”
He also pointed out that 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.”
Okorocha wondered where INEC derived the power to withhold certificate of return after a winner in an election had been announced.
INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said since Okorocha had gone to court over the issue, he should allow it to make a pronouncement on his certificate of return.
He said, “The case is in court. He is the one that took us to court. He should, therefore, wait for the court to determine the case.”