The Federal High Court sitting 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 who made the order in a judgment on the suit filed by Okorocha,Challenging INECs decision to withhold his certificate of return after he was declared the winner of February 23, 2019, National Assembly Election in the Imo West Senatorial District, described INECs action as lawless and arbitrary. Justice Abang also held that Okorocha having been declared the winner of the election, INEC no longer had any legal authority to withhold a certificate of return due to him.
The judge held, 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. He also held that the issue of duress is unknown to both the electoral act and the constitution of Nigeria .Abang ruled that Okorocha remained elected subject to the outcome of the ongoing proceedings of the National Assembly election petition tribunal.
He, therefore, ordered, that INEC shall forthwith publish and circulate the name of the plaintiff as the senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District and also issue Okorocha the certificate of return as the Senator-Elect representing Imo West Senatorial District. The judge also awarded the cost of N200, 000 against INEC in favour of Okorocha, while also ordering each of the seven defendants in the suit to pay Okorocha N100, 000 as damages.
The judge ordered the defendants to pay the costs personally to Okorocha before taking any further steps in the case.Justice Abang added that the cost awarded against INEC would serve as deterrence to it from taking any future unlawful action.
Beforehand, INEC had refused to issue a certificate of return to Rochas Okorocha on the grounds that its returning officer who presided over the election complained to it that he declared the results under duress.