Hundreds of protesters yesterday staged a protest at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters to demand the release of Certificate of Return of Imo state Governor, Rochas Okorocha.
The protest was led by the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) South East Youth Caucus, Olisaemaka Onyeka at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
It would be recalled that Imo West senatorial election was enmeshed in controversies as the returning officer, Innocent Ibeawuchi said he declared Okorocha winner under duress. Since then, INEC had refused to issue Okorocha a Certificate of Return on the report that he (Okorocha) was declared winner under duress.
Speaking at the protest, Onyeka said under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Electoral Act, INEC lacks the power to withhold a Certificate of Return in an election duly declared in line with the laws of the land or cancel an election that met the minimum requirement of the law.
He said Okorocha is the authentic winner of the Imo North Senatorial District.
‘’At the concluded National Assembly, the returning officer had declared Governor Okorocha winner of Imo North Senatorial District as decided by the electorate during the February 23rd election which was concluded with supplementary elections on March 9th.
‘’It however, came as a surprise when same commission alleged that the announcement was made under duress,’’ he said.
He said the returning officer announced Governor Okorocha winner of the National Assembly election in the presence of all security agencies, print and traditional media and INEC’S spokesperson who was also at the venue with his camera and took recordings of all events.
‘’We again remind the INEC that once declaration was made by an election returning officer, the commission has no right to withhold the winner’s certificate of return,’’ he said.
Onyeka, however, urged the commission to reconsider its decision as the continuous withholding Okorocha’s certificate of return as it could fuel tension in the state.
Responding to the protesters, INEC assistant director, Mr Kelechi Madumene commended the protesters for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner.
He said that Okorocha’s issue is in court and therefore it may lead to subjudice to comment on the matter that is before the court of law.
He, therefore, assured them that the commission will do the right thing.