Rochas Okorocha, the former governor of Imo state, finally got some good news on Friday as a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West.
Backstory: Justice Okon Abang who presided ruled that the law is the law, and that once the INEC Returning Officer declared that Okorocha won the February 23 elections, the commission had no right to withhold the certificate. He said INEC’s action was unlawful. This is despite the fact that the Returning Officer said that he was forced to make the announcement under duress.
- “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.”
What next: Okorocha’s co-contestants who feel aggrieved have the right to take the matter to the elections petition tribunal.
- In addition to ordering that a certificate of return be issued to the former governor, the judge ruled that INEC should pay the sum of N200,000 to the plaintiff, while the other seven defendants should each pay the plaintiff N100,000 each, making a total sum of N900,000..
- He ordered that the defendants should pay the costs personally to Okorocha before taking any further steps in the case.