Certificate of Return: Group Makes Case for Okorocha

. . . Threatens Mass Action

By Abuchi Onwumelu

Following the withholding of the Certification of Return of Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a group under the aegis of the Southeast APC Young Progressives Forum (SEAYPF), has thrown its weight behind the embattled governor.

In a release signed by the convener of the group, Comrade Pascal Otimkpu; Comrade Mazi Ejimofor from Imo State; Comrade Obi Emeka from Anambra State; Comrade Buchi Obika from Abia State; Comrade Sunday Udeh from Enugu State and Comrade Prosper Enukama from Ebonyi State and made available to newsmen, they frowned at what they described as abuse of process.

‘We have patiently waited and keenly watched the dramatic turnarounds cum actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Imo West Senatorial Zone, with the withholding of the certificate of return of the duly elected senator of the zone, His Excellency Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha.

‘INEC as an institution guided by the constitution of the country, has no reason whatsoever to contradict the letters of the constitution which it drives its strength from. Again INEC cannot be a judge in its own case; this is over ambitious.

‘We are not in a Banana Republic and hence the activities of every individual or institution must be dully guided by the constitution of the country. It is shameful that INEC has allowed itself to be acting arrogantly, arrogating to itself, judicial powers which it does not possess.

This is a huge mockery on our democracy which thrives on separation of powers,’ the group said, citing Section 68(1)(a)(b)and(c) of the country’s constitution to buttress their stand.

‘That a Returning officer claimed he was threatened to declare a result is obtuse.

Unfortunately, that’s immaterial the moment the Returning officer publicly pronounces a result. This argument can be anchored on the following cases of Sylvester V. Ohiakwu (2014) 5 NWLR (pt. 1401) p. 467. And Tanko V. State (2009) 4 NWLR (pt. 1131) 430.

‘If the pronouncement of a Returning officer is final, subject only to a judicial review as provided for under S. 68 of the Electoral Act, can INEC rely on S. 75(2) to withhold a certificate of return? Is S. 75(2) an exception to S. 68? We are not persuaded by the argument that inherently the provisions of S. 75(2) is an exception to the rule in S.68.
‘S. 75(2) provides as follows:

”Where the Commission refuses or neglects to issue a Certificate of Return, a certified true copy of the order of a court of competent jurisdiction shall, ipso facto, be sufficient for the purposes of swearing in a candidate as winner by that Court.”

‘One of the cardinal rules of interpretation of statutes is that where the provision of a statute is clear and unambiguous, the duty of the courts is simply to interpret the clear provision by giving the plain wording, their ordinary interpretation without more.

‘The provision of S. 68 gives the Returning officer the unfettered right to declare the scores of candidates in an election and once that is done his declaration is final, subject only to a judicial review. Whereas there’s nowhere in S. 78 where anyone, including INEC, is given any powers by the Electoral Act to withhold a certificate of return once a returning officer has pronounced the results.

‘Having sited the above sacred constitution of our land, INEC must therefore not just have to release Gov Okorocha’s certificate of return immediately, but also apologize to Nigerians for the huge embarrassment they have brought to our democracy.

‘In the light of the foregoing, we, Southeast APC Young Progressives Forum of APC are pained, worried and can no longer keep condoling INEC if after fourteen days, starting from today, Tuesday April 9, fails to issue a certificate of return to the Senator-elect, we shall be left with no option than to massively mobilize progressive youths from across the five Southeast states for mass action and takeover of INEC office.

‘This demand is total and INEC must work out her machineries in doing the right thing within discussed period issued above or face the consequences,’ the statement read.

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