INEC Lacks Power To Reverse My Election, Says Okorocha

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Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacks the power to withhold his Certificate of Return or reverse his election after being declared winner of the Imo West senatorial election.

 

This was contained in a petition filed at the commission by Okorocha.

 

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 INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

 

INEC had refused to issue a Certificate of Return to Okorocha despite being announced winner of the election because the Returning Officer, Prof. Francis Ibeawuchi, said he declared Okorocha winner under duress.

 

But the governor said going by the laws governing elections, since the election had been concluded and a winner announced, INEC had no right not to deny him a Certificate of Return.

 

He added that if there were issues with the election after the announcement of a winner, recourse ought to be made to election tribunals.

 

According to him, 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.”

 

He also noted 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 then asked where INEC derived the power to withhold Certificate of Return after a winner in an election had been announced.

 

The governor stressed that by toeing this line, INEC “is setting a bad precedent which could make it deny anyone it does not approve of electoral victory, even when such person is the preference of the voting public”.

 

Okorocha, who argued that INEC’s step was not known to law, advised the commission to seek redress in the law court rather than take laws into its own hands.

 

He stated that INEC, in its counter-affidavit to his suit at the Federal High Court, did not mention any allegation to the fact that his declaration was made under duress.

 

“In the replies filed by INEC to the petitions against me by Osita Izuanso, Jones Onyeyeri, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Uche Onyeoma Ibeh at the Election Tribunal in Owerri, INEC actually said my election was duly conducted and that the declaration and return made in my favour by the Returning Officer was voluntary and not due to any duress or coercion exerted on the Returning Officer.”

 

He urged the commission to release his Certificate of Return and refrain from reducing the commission to a willing tool in the hands of political manipulators.

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