A Federal High Court in Abuja on Fiday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Rochas Okorocha, as Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial Constituency.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Okon Abang, held that the having been declared by the returning Officer as the winner of the Feb. 23 Imo West Senatorial, INEC had no reason not to issue him certificate of return.
The Judge however overruled the submission by candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Jones Onyeriri and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Osita Izunaso that the matter ought to be taken to the election petitions tribunal, since it was a post-election matter.
The judge held that petitions to the election tribunal under Section 133 of the Electoral Act should be made by the losers, and not the person declared winner and not a person that was declared winner whether under duress or not.
“The reliefs sought by the plaintiff (Okorocha) does not relate to the validity of the election to warrant him filing petitions at the election tribunal.
“The tribunal has no jurisdiction to answer questions as to the validity of INEC’s action, the action by INEC not to issue certificate of return is unknown to the Constitution and the Electoral Act,” the Judge said.
The Judge also awarded the cost of N100, 000 each against all the respondents in the suit.
Meanwhile, candidate of the PDP, Mr Onyeriri said he had already filed a petition relating to this matter before the election petitions tribunal.
According Onyeriri, he is confident of victory at the tribunal.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Kingdom Okere, Counsel to the candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Precious Nwadike, vowed to appeal against the judgment of Justice Abang.
He described the judgment as ”empowerment of illegality to recognise candidates who uses thugs during elections.
According to Okere, such a judgment is capable of holding electoral officials to ransom to win election.