Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has cautioned the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, against reducing the commission to “a willing tool in the hands of political manipulators”.
In a petition he filed at the commission’s head office, Okorocha urged INEC to release his certificate of return without delay.
INEC had refused to issue a certificate of return to Okorocha as Senator representing Imo West. This because the returning officer for the election, said the declaration of Okorocha as winner of the election was made under duress.
Okorocha however argued that if there were issues with the election after the announcement of a winner, recourse ought to be made to election tribunals.
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He wrote: “Section 285 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, states that there shall be established for the Federation one or more elections tribunal to be known as the National Assembly Elections Tribunal which shall, to the exclusion of any court or tribunal, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions as to whether (a) any person has been validly elected as a member of the national Assembly.”
“Section 133 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that No election and return at an election under this Act shall be questioned in a manner other than by a petition complaining of an undue election or an undue return presented to the competent tribunal or court in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution or of this Act, and in which the person elected or returned is joined as a party.”
OKorocha argued that the step taken by INEC is not known to law and advised the commission to seek redress in the law court rather than taking laws “into its own hands”.
Okorocha also said that INEC, in its counter-affidavit to the suit he filed at the federal high court to compel it to issue him his certificate of return, did not mention any allegation to the fact that his declaration was made under duress.
“In the replies filed by INEC to the petitions filed against me by Osita Izuanso, Jones Onyeyeri, Peoples Democratic Party and Uche Onyeoma Ibeh at the Election Tribunal in Owerri, INEC actually stated that my election was duly conducted and that the declaration and return made in my favour by the Returning Officer was voluntary and not due to any duress or coercion exerted on the Returning Officer,” he said.