By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja, June 11, 2019
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday issued former Governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha, his Certificate of Return to the Senate.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after collecting the certificate in Abuja, Okorocha said he was told at exactly 6.14 p.m. that his certificate was ready.
“At exactly 6.14 pm, this evening, after the inauguration of the 9th assembly, I was invited to collect my certificate and I have just come to collect it.
“I take it to be God’s time. I believe that justice delayed is justice denied, but all the same for the sake of our nation, I accepted it, ” he said.
Okorocha commended the judiciary for doing the needful and for being there at the needed time as well as serving as the last resort for the common citizens or anybody that felt oppressed.
“I also want to thank INEC for taking this bold step against all odds by issuing my certificate of return, which goes a long way to confirming that the allegation of duress is unfounded by a delay tactic by my detractors to slow down the process.
“I believe this is God’s time and I take it as God’s time. I am happy that finally the matter is resolved.
Asked of his feelings about not being able to participate in the inauguration ceremony for the 9th assembly and the voting process that produced the leadership of the 9th Senate, Okorocha said:” I missed it because I did not have a certificate.
“Now that I have the certificate I have opportunity to join my colleagues to see how to move Nigeria forward”
“I belong in the APC and I believe there is nothing wrong with the party but its management.
” I will not stop being an APC member because of somebody. I came into APC alone and I am in the party. I believe in the party. It will be good to say that time will tell,” he said.
He said that he came to the senate to rebuild the political bridges and the rest of the country.
“I have also decided to see the possibility of free education at all levels in Nigeria, so that ordinary people, the poor can have access to education,” Okorocha said.
Okorocha was one of the two senators absent at the inauguration of the 9th assembly, where 107 other senators elected Sen. Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Ovie Omo-Agege as Deputy Senate President, both of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
INEC did not give Okorocha his certificate of return following an allegation that the Returning Officer of the Commission declared him winner of the election under duress.
The Federal High Court in Abuja , however on Friday ordered INEC to issue him a Certificate of Return as senator-elect representing Imo West Senatorial district.
Justice Okon Abang in his ruling on Friday, held that the commission had no reason to withhold the former governor’s certificate, having won the election.
Meanwhile, INEC) has said it will appeal the judgment directing it to issue the Certificate of Return to Okorocha.
It made the disclosure in a statement issued by Mr Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said the commission issued the certificate to Okorocha in compliance with an Abuja Federal High Court that directed it to do so.
Okoye said the issuance of the certificate to Okorocha once again demonstrated its commitment to obeying court judgments, including those it might have reservations.
He said that the decision was reached on Tuesday after the commission met and considered 14 Memoranda involving judgments and orders in pre-election matters relating to the issuance of certificates and or withdrawal of certificates already issued in pre-election matters.
“Amongst the memoranda considered, is the one concerning the judgment on the Imo West Senatorial district by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The Commission decided to comply with the court judgment by issuing a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Rochas Okorocha in compliance with the judgment and Orders of Hon. Justice Okon Abang.
“It will also appeal against the said judgment.”
Okoye said that in arriving at the decision, the commission also took into consideration, the orders issued by two High Courts in Owerri Judicial Division.
He said the orders were issued in suits No. HOW/ 596/2019 issued on May 23, 2019 and another dated the June 11, 2019 issued in suit No. HOW/663/2019 restraining the commission from issuing certificate of return in respect of the said senatorial district.
The national commissioner said that INEC noted that both were interim orders issued ex parte and not final orders of court.
Okoye said that in obeying the judgment, the commission was demonstrating, once again, its longstanding commitment of complying with all orders of court, including those with 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 can perceive in this judgment an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law.
“It is not far-fetched that some of them can in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilise thugs and compel Returning Officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of 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,” he said.
Okoye restated INEC’s commitment to due process and obedience to the Rule of Law in its dealings with all parties and candidates.
“We assure Nigerians that we will not waiver in our determination to enthrone a credible electoral process in Nigeria.”