The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it is planning to appeal the judgment of June 7 by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court that ordered it to issue the certificate of return to former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, despite the issuance on Tuesday.
Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner of INEC and chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee said the commission has reservations about Abang’s order as there were two contradictory judgments earlier given by two courts in Imo state, which have concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal High Court.
The commission recalled two restraining orders issued by the courts. One in suit No HOW/596/2019 issued on 23 May and another order issued on Tuesday 11 June, in suit No HOW/663/2019.
”It is noted that both are interim orders issued ex-parte and not final order of court”, Okoye said.
”In obeying the judgment (Okon Abang’s), the commission is demonstrating once again its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of court, including those 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 far fetched 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 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”.
INEC on Tuesday finally issued Okorocha the certificate for winning the February 23 senatorial election in Imo West.
The presentation came barely hours after the ninth National Assembly was inaugurated.
Without a certificate of return, Okorocha could not take part in the inauguration or voting of the new leadership of the Senate.
Okorocha was declared the winner of the February 23 senatorial election of Imo West zone but the returning officer, Innocent Ibeabuchi, said he was forced to make the declaration.
Okorocha then approached the High Court in Abuja, seeking an order compelling INEC to issue him a certificate of return.
In response, the commission refused to issue him one, saying it was reviewing the situation.
The former Governor also accused his estranged party, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and INEC of plotting to frustrate his senatorial ambition.
The court had described INEC’s decision as an aberration that has no foundation in the Constitution of the country or in the Electoral Act.
Abang said INEC had no power to act as it did. He said such an action implied the creation of new laws by INEC.
In response, INEC said it would do the ‘needful’ after studying the ruling.