The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday issued a Certificate of Return to former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha as winner of the Imo West Senatorial District election.
Last Friday, a Federal High Court in Abuja, the nation’s capital, directed the commission to issue the former governor the certificate.
The commission promised to take decision on the matter and other issues at a meeting yesterday.
Okorocha got the certificate hours after the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly.
In a statement announcing the issuance of the certificate to the former governor, the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC) Mr. Festus Okoye said INEC did so to show its commitment to rule of law, despite its reservations.
But the commission raised serious concerns about the likely consequences of the court judgment on the country’s electoral process.
“In obeying the judgment, the commission is demonstrating once again its long-standing 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 could perceive in this judgment 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 mobilise thugs and compel Returning Officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of the 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,” the statement said.
INEC stressed that “in arriving at this decision, the commission also took into consideration the orders issued by two High Courts in the Owerri Judicial Division in suits HOW/596/2019 issued on May 23 and another, dated June 11, issued in suit HOW/663/2019 restraining the commission from issuing Certificate of Return in respect of the said senatorial dstrict. It is noted that both are interim orders issued ex parte and not final orders of court.
“The commission would like to seize this opportunity to restate its commitment to due process and obedience to the 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.”
Okorocha, who was earlier denied the opportunity to be inaugurated with his colleagues, said he was only called upon by the commission at exactly 6.14 p.m that his certificate was ready.
“At exactly 6.14 p.m, this evening (last night) after the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, I was invited that my certificate was ready, and I have just come to collect it.
“I take it to be God’s time. I have always believed that justice delayed is justice denied. But all this is for the sake of our nation. I accepted it.”