Victory appeared to have come the way of the immediate past governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha as a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to release his certificate of return with immediate effect.
Okorocha had won the position of a senator in the senatorial election that was conducted in February, but INEC withheld his certificate of Return on the grounds that its Returning Officer who presided over the election allegedly declared the results under duress.
But in his ruling over the case, Justice Okon Abang stated that INEC’s decision to withhold Okorocha’s certificate of return after he was declared the winner of February 23, 2019, National Assembly election in the Imo West Senatorial District was illegal.
“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”, the judge ruled.
The court held that Okorocha remained elected, subject to the outcome of the ongoing proceedings of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.
He however, ordered, that “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 senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District.”
The judge also fined the commission with the sum of N200,000 to the plaintiff, and awarded N100,000 payable to the plaintiff by each of the other seven defendants to the suit.
By this, a total of N900,000 cost is to be paid by the defendants to Okorocha.
The judge ordered the defendants to pay the costs personally to Okorocha before taking any further steps in the case.
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