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Issue Certificate Of Return To Former Governor Okorocha As Imo Senator-Elect, Court Orders INEC

Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria, on Friday directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to with immediate effect, issue the certificate of return to the immediate-past Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, as the senator-elect for the Imo West Senatorial District.

The judge arrived at the decision while delivering judgment on the suit instituted by  Okorocha, questioning the decision of the electoral body to withhold his certificate of return after he was declared the winner of the February 23, 2019, National Assembly election in the Imo West Senatorial District.

It would be recalled that INEC had hinged its decision to hold on to the  certificate of return on the grounds that its Returning Officer who presided over the election complained to it that he declared the results under duress.

But in handing down his decision, Justice Abang held that INEC's action is lawless and arbitrary, insisting that Okorocha, having been declared the winner of the election, it no longer had any legal authority to withhold the certificate of return due to him.

According to Justice Abang, “Once the declaration is made under section 68(c) of the Electoral Act, INEC has become functus officio and INEC has no lawful authority to withhold the certificate of return for any reason whatsoever.

“Therefore, the issue of duress is unknown to both the Electoral Act and the Constitution.

“INEC shall forthwith publish and circulate the name of the plaintiff as the senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District.

“It is hereby ordered that INEC shall forthwith issue a certificate of return as the senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District.”

Justice Abang also awarded the cost of N200,000 payable by INEC to the plaintiff, and awarded N100,000 payable to the plaintiff by each of the other seven defendants to the plaintiff.

“A total of N900,000 cost is to be paid by defendants to Okorocha,” the judge added.

The court further directed that the defendants are to pay the costs personally to Okorocha before taking any further steps in the case.

He held that the plaintiff ought not to have applied to be joined in the case, adding that the cost awarded against INEC would serve as a deterrence from taking any future unlawful action.

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