INEC to meet on Okorocha’s certificate of return

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared its readiness meet next week to deliberate on the latest letter written by i

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared its readiness meet next week to deliberate on the latest letter written by incumbent Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, while a decision could also be taken whether to issue him his certificate of returns or not.

Okorocha was the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the February 23 Imo West senatorial election. The commission withheld his certificate of returns after the Presiding Officer had declared him winner of the election.

INEC claimed the declaration was made under duress. But in an interview with newsmen on Thursday, Festus Okoye, INEC commissioner for Information and Voter Education, stated that though both parties were in court on the issue, the commission chairman would meet with commissioners to deliberate on the issue and know the next line of action.

“INEC chairman would meet next week with Commissioners to deliberate on the latest letter written by Okorocha and take a look at the issue again.

Both parties are in court, but the INEC chairman is outside the country and most of the commissioners are on duty,“ Okoye said. The INEC Commissioner further stated that the commission was not concerned about comment attributed to the Governor on the issue, stressing that it will, however, not take action that is outside the law.

“The case is in court but we believe what we are doing is in accordance to the law we would not act outside the law,” Okoye added.

Governor Okorocha, who is completing his second term in office later this month, had insisted recently that going by 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.

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.

“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?” Okorocha queried