Olusola Fabiyi and Oluwatobi Akindele
Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has said the Independent National Electoral Commission lacks the power to withhold his certificate of return.
Okorocha was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the February 23 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.
But INEC claimed the declaration was made under duress.
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 Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
The governor said going by the laws governing elections in the country, 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 said, “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.’
“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.’
“Where then did INEC derive the power to withhold a 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.”