By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has asked the Federal High Court Abuja to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue him with a Certificate of Return as the Senator- elect for Imo West Senatorial District.
Okorocha, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, argued that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, insisting that he was validly elected to occupy the senatorial seat.
He urged the court to declare that the electoral body acted in error, when it refused to recognise him, even after the returning officer had declared him winner.
INEC was cited as the sole defendants in the suit he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN.
Meantime, Justice Taiwo .O. Taiwo has fixed April 5 to commence hearing on the matter, even as he okayed a joinder application that was filed by the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Jones Onyeriri and that of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Senator Osita Izunaso.
Both Onyeriri and Izunaso who were joined as interested parties in the matter, were subsequently listed as 2nd and 3rd defendants, respectively.
It will be recalled that INEC had declined to issue Certificate of Return to Okorocha who was the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, after the returning returning officer alleged that he was forced to declare him winner under duress.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof Francis Ibeawuchi, declared Okorocha as the winner of the poll, having polled 97,762 votes ahead of his closest rival, Mr Jones Onyereri of the Peoples Democratic Party, who had 68,117 votes.
Ibeawuchi claimed that he announced Okorocha as the winner to save his life and that of his household, insisting however that the election ought to have been declared inconclusive.