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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Politics: Drama As Court Deliver Groundbreaking Verdict Over Rochas Okorocha's Certificate

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A lot of drama has emanated from the ongoing court case concerning the certificate of return of Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha. 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 officer alleged that he was forced to declare him winner under duress. Due to this, he dragged the issue to court. Now, it has been reported that the justice presiding over his suit, Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, April 7, has disqualified himself from hearing the incumbent’s case.


You will recall that the Returning Officer for the election, Prof Francis Ibeawuchi, had said that he 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.

Okorocha had 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. Following this, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the disputed Imo West Senatorial election, Mr. Jones Onyereri, then asked Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja to disqualify himself from the suit Governor Rochas Okorocha filed to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue him a Certificate of Return as the Senator-elect for the District.

Okorocha had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, maintained that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, saying he was validly elected to occupy the senatorial seat. He prayed the court to declare that INEC acted in error when it refused to recognize him, even after the returning officer had declared him the winner. Okorocha’s bid to secure an interim order against INEC, however, suffered a major setback last Friday following joinder applications by four candidates that participated in the senatorial poll, who separately urged the court to admit them as interested parties in the suit.

Now, Okorocha had filed a suit compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue him a certificate of return as the winner of the Imo west senatorial district. Justice Taiwo, during the court hearing, revealed that following a petition instituted against him by Jones Onyereri, a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the embattled senatorial poll, he is distancing himself from the case, according to reports. Taiwo went on to say that said he would send back the case-file back to the chief judge for it to be reassigned to another justice.
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