A total of six political parties have come together to scuttle moves being made by Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, to ensure the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issues him a Certificate of Return as Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.
Okorocha, had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019 and filed before a Federal High Court in Abuja, maintained that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, saying he was validly elected in the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections to represent his people.
The Imo governor, who has been suspended by the All Progressives Congress (APC) over alleged anti-party activities, further 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 yesterday, Okorocha, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, prayed that the court should order INEC to in the interim, issue him Certificate of Return pending the determination of the suit.
However, four of the candidates who participated in the senatorial poll, approached the court to be joined as interested parties, aiming to counter the citing of as sole defendant in the suit.
The applicants, made up of 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, through their respective lawyers, stated their opposition to the issuance of Certificate of Return to Okorocha.
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, bringing the number of to seven defendants with all having notified the court of the desire to file preliminary objections challenge the competence of Okorocha’s suit.
Through its lawyer, Mrs. Wendy Kuku, INEC also queried the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit which it argued anounted to raising 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 and 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