….as six parties ask court to dismiss suit
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Moves by Governor Rochas Okorocha to secure an interim injunction to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue him a Certificate of Return as the Senator- elect for Imo West Senatorial District, suffered setback on Friday.
Okorocha had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, which he filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, maintained that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, saying 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.
At the resumed proceeding on the matter on Friday, Okorocha, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, prayed the court to order INEC to in the interim, issue him Certificate of Return pending the determination of the suit.
However, though INEC was cited as the sole defendant in the suit, however, four candidates that participated in the senatorial poll, approached the court to be joined as interested parties.
The applicants, through their respective lawyers, said they were vehemently opposed to the issuance of Certificate of Return to Okorocha.
Those that secured leave of the court to file processes to counter Okorocha’s suit were Mr. Nwachukwu Clement of KOWA party, Precious Nwadike of United Progressive Party, UPP, Dr. Uche Ibeh of Labour Party, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The court had earlier joined Hon. Jones Onyeriri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Senator Osita Izunaso of APGA as interested parties in the case.
All the parties that were added as 2nd to 7th Defendants in the matter, notified the court that they would filed preliminary objections to challenge the competence of Okorocha’s suit.
Likewise, INEC, through its lawyer, Mrs. Wendy Kuku, also queried the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit which it argued raised post-election issues.
Meanwhile, Justice Taiwo .O. Taiwo has adjourned the case till next Tuesday, even as he directed all the parties to file and exchange their processes before the date.
The court held that it would no longer admit any interested party that failed to approach the court before the adjourned date.
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.