Outgoing Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha, has stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), does not have the legal backing or power to withhold his certificate of return as the senator-elect representing Imo West, following his controversial win during the 2019 National Assembly Polls.
Backstory: Okorocha who contested under the All Progressive Congress (APC), on February 23, made this statement while addressing some youths of the state, who paid him a solidarity visit at the Government House in the state’s capital of Owerri.
“My INEC certificate cannot be touched or seized, Doing so is belittling democracy in Nigeria. It is only the tribunal that has the right to say otherwise once a result is declared. INEC cannot seize my certificate because of a mere petition written by somebody in a case I was not given the opportunity to present my own side of the story,” he said.
Maintains Innocence in Election Violence Case: Okorocha continued to deny the allegations leveled against him by INEC’s returning officer, who claimed that he announced the governor’s name under duress.
“I am not a violent person and those who know me know that, this is why we have peace in Imo state. The Returning Officer could not have done that under duress under the watchful eyes of the Police, DSS and party agents.”
INEC Complicit in Result Manipulation: Closing out his statement, Okorocha also called out the electoral body for allegedly manipulating the state’s governorship elections, where he claimed his son-in-law Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA), was the clear winner.
“Uche Nwosu, the governorship candidate of the AA actually won the election but INEC criminally disbanded electoral officers of the commission and introduced people from Abia College of Agriculture who arrived the state at midnight,” he said.
Bottom Line: Okorocha was banking on receiving a certificate of return and placing the onus on his opponents to go to the tribunal. But INEC has flipped the script, arguing that even though they ordinarily do not have the power to exercise discretion in withholding his certificate, they were making an exception because the returning officer said his life was under threat. This is a different dimension that was not envisioned in the law and would now be tested in court.