The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reaffirmed that it would appeal the High Court ruling which ordered it to issue a certificate of return to Ex-Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
Naija Buzz had last Friday reported how Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja declared INEC’s decision to withhold Okorocha’s certificate as “lawlessness” and consequently ordered the electoral commission to issue him a certificate of return.
INEC had after the conduct of the February 23 National Assembly election declared that it would not recognise Okorocha as a senator-elect because its Returning Officer, Prof. Innocent Ibeabuchi, revealed that he announced Okorocha as winner under duress.
The former Imo Governor was the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Imo West Senatorial District election.
Naija Buzz few hours ago reported how INEC despite its reservations complied with the court order in obedience to the rule of law on Tuesday and issued Okorocha a return certificate.
It however few hours after the issuance of the certificate noted that it would appeal the order which compelled it to release the certificate to the embattled ex-governor because of the “likely consequences of this judgment for our electoral system in particular and our democracy in general.”
Read INEC statement issued few hours after Okorocha received his Certificate of Return by Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee;
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, 11th June 2019 and considered 14 memoranda involving judgments and orders in pre-election matters relating to the issuance of certificates and or withdrawal of certificates already issued in pre-election matters.
Amongst the memoranda considered is that concerning the judgment on the Imo west senate district by the federal high court Abuja. The commission decided to:
To comply with the court judgement by issuing a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Rochas Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha in compliance to orders of Hon. Justice O.E. Abang.
Appeal against the said judgment.
In arriving to this decision we also took into consideration the orders issued by two high courts in Owerri on May 23th and another issued on June 11th restraining the commission from issuing the certificate. It is noted that both are interim orders issued ex-parte and not final orders of the court.
In obeying the judgment, the commission is demonstrating its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of the court, including those with which it may have reservation.
However, the commission must put on record its very profound concerns about the likely consequences of this judgment for our electoral system in particular and our democracy in general. Obviously, persons who seek elective offices could perceive in this judgment as an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law.
It is not farfetched that some of them could in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilize 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 official that they are safe to carry out their legitimate functions without being harassed, held to ransom or visited with bodily harm.
The commission would like to seize this opportunity to restate its commitment to due process and obedience to rule of law in its dealings with all parties and candidates. We assure Nigerians that we will not waiver in our determination to enthrone a credible electoral process in Nigeria.
Festus Okoye, Esq.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (INEC).
Jonathan Dennis is an Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He oversees the production and publication of stories on NaijaBuzz.News and on Naija Buzz News TV. The former banker left his banking job to join Naija Buzz News in 2019. He was briefly the head of the “Wetin Dey Happen” news team. Jonathan is a proud ‘Akwa-Ibomite’ from Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria.