NIGERIA’S Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) has said it will appeal a recent high court decision which compelled it to issue a certificate to former Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha as the duly elected senator representing Imo West.
Following the February 29 National Assembly elections, Governor Okorocha was declared the winner of the Imo West Senatorial District, with 97,762 votes, beating his closest rival Jones Onyereri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who got 68,117 votes. However, the returning officer Professor Francis Ibeawuchi, later revealed that he announced the results under duress as he was abducted and held until he pronounced the governor the winner.
As a result of this revelation, Inec decided to withhold Governor Okorocha’s certificate of return. He however, filed a suit at the federal high court and won the case, compelling Inec to issue him with a certificate which declared him the duly elected senator to represent Imo West senatorial District.
However, Inec spokesman Festus Okoye, said: “The commission decided to comply with the court judgment by issuing a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Rochas Okorocha in compliance with the judgment and orders of Hon Justice Okon Abang. However, it will also appeal against the said judgment.”
Mr Okoye said that in arriving at the decision, the commission also took into consideration, the orders issued by two high courts in Owerri Judicial Division. He said the orders were issued restraining the commission from issuing certificate of return in respect of the said senatorial district.
According to Mr Okoye, Inec noted that both were interim orders issued ex parte and not final orders of court. He said that in obeying the judgment, the commission was demonstrating, once again, its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of court, including those with which it may have reservations.
“However, the commission must put on record its very profound concerns about the likely consequences of this judgment for our electoral process in particular and our democracy in general. Obviously, persons who seek elective offices can perceive in this judgment an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law.
“It is not far-fetched that some of them can in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilise thugs and compel returning officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of elections. Moreover, it may become increasingly difficult for the commission to convince its officials that they are safe to carry out their legitimate functions without fear of being harassed, held to ransom or visited with bodily harm,” Mr Okoye added.