– Don’t touch my certificate, Okorocha warns
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained why it will not issue a certificate of return to any candidate in the February 23 Imo West (Orlu) senatorial election.
After a controversial results collation process, the outgoing governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha, was declared winner of the Senate seat by the returning officer, Innocent Ibeabuchi, who clearly noted he did so “under duress”.
“…I have been held hostage here for days so I’m trying to ease off and take my life home back to my children and for the sake of that I am calling these results under duress,” Prof. Ibeabuchi had said before reading out the results.
The commission said it will not recognise the governor as a senator-elect because of the controversy during the collation process.
INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, during Channels TV’s Lunchtime Politics Program on Tuesday explained reasons behind the commission’s decision.
“The commission has decided that we will not reward bad behavior in the electoral process and we recorded bad behavior in result collations in Imo West Senatorial District”, Mr Okoye told Millicent Nwoka, the anchor of the programme.
“Investigation by the commission revealed that the returning officer for Imo West made a return under suspicious circumstances.
“He was put under too much pressure. He was forced to make a declaration and a return and we made determination that that particular return was not made out of the freewill of the returning officer.”
Mr. Okoye explained that in such circumstance where a valid return has not been made, “we are not going to bend the arm of the INEC to (accept) such a return.”
“So, we decided not to issue certificate of return to any candidate of the Imo West senatorial elections until the commission takes a more critical look and take a decision on where to go from here,” the official noted.
The commission issued certificates of return to all “successful candidates in 2019 National Assembly elections” on Thursday, March 14 at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
Reacting to the development, Governor Okorocha wondered why “INEC should withhold my Certificate for a frivolous reason, without hearing from me. I am not a violent person and those who know me know that. This is why we have peace in Imo State.
Addressing some sympathizers in Owerri on Wednesday, Governor Okorocha said he could not have done that under duress with the watchful eyes of the Police, DSS and party cheap flight“>agents. I am not unmindful of the facts that those who are fighting me from Abuja are anxious to see me removed as a Senator. I urge INEC to do the right thing immediately by releasing my Certificate”.
The governor warned, “Let me tell every Nigerian that I fight no one and no one should fight me. If anyone fights me, he will be the loser at the end of it all. My INEC Certificate cannot be touched and seized, doing so is belittling Democracy in Nigeria. It is only the tribunal that has the right to say otherwise once a result is declared. INEC cannot seize my Certificate by mere petition written by somebody in a case I was not given the opportunity to present my own side of the story.”