Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, has criticised the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withhold his Certificate of Return after being declared winner of the Imo West Senatorial election.
The returning officer for Imo West Senatorial District, Innocent Ibeabuchi, had disclosed how he was “detained at the centre for days.” and was later forced to declare result in favour of Okorocha, who is the APC senatorial candidate for the zone.
Okorocha on Wednesday described INEC’s decision to hold onto his certificate of return as “unfortunate and unconstitutional”, adding that only the court can order the withdrawal of his certificate of return.
The Imo Governor while addressing thousands of youths on a protest on Wednesday, at the Government House, accused the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Imo, Professor Francis Ezeonu of lying and wrecking democracy in the State
Okorocha said: “INEC is being used by those me him ahead of the 2023 Presidential election to stop him from going to the Senate.
“It is only the Courts that have the powers to nullify any election after a winner has been declared and the Electoral umpire does not have the power.
“In my own case, my Certificate of Return has not been issued and I wonder why INEC will 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. The Returning Officer could not have done that under duress under the watchful eyes of the Police, DSS and party 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.
“let me tell every Nigerian that I fought 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 or 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.
“The REC had acted illegally by ignoring the provision of the Constitution that makes it mandatory for a candidate to have 25 per cent in 2/3rd of the Local Governments in the State by announcing the PDP candidate, Emeka Ihedioha who only met the requirement in 9 Local Governments instead of 18 LGAs which is 2/3 of 27 LGAs winner.”