After he was denied entry to the National Assembly Complex during the inauguration and election of the ninth national assembly, former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, whose name was missing from the list of lawmakers-elect and barred from the process, finally received his certificate of return as winner of the Imo West Senatorial District election from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) late Tuesday evening.
Shortly after receiving the certificate at INEC headquarters in Abuja, Okorocha said he was called upon at exactly 6.14 pm that his certificate was ready. “At exactly 6.14 pm, this evening, after the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, I was invited that my certificate is ready and I have just come to collect it. “I take it to be God’s time. I have always believed that justice delayed is justice denied, but all this for the sake of our nation I accepted it,” he said. He also commended the judiciary for doing the needful and serving as the last hope of the common citizens or anybody that feels oppressed.
“I also want to thank INEC for taking this bold step against all odds by issuing my certificate of return, which goes along way to confirm that the allegation of duress is not founded by a delay tactic by my detractors to slow down the process. I believe this is God’s time and I take it as God’s time. I am happy that finally the matter is resolved,” he said.
Okorocha was given his certificate of return after a high court in Imo state directed INEC not to issue a certificate of return to Okorocha. The judge, Ngozi Ukoha, ruled that INEC should hold Okorocha’s certificate pending the determination of the motion on notice challenging the victory of Okorocha filed by Osita Izunaso of the All Progressives Grand Alliances, (APGA).
Izunaso had filed a motion seeking an order staying proceedings at the Federal High Court pending the determination of the appeal. The high court judgement is coming few days after a federal high court ordered INEC to issue Okorocha a certificate of return.
The judge, Justice Okon Abang, ruled that the having been declared by the returning officer as the winner of the February 23 senatorial poll for Imo West Senatorial District, INEC has no reason not to issue Okorocha a certificate of return.
INEC said it refused to acknowledge his victory because the returning officer was made to announce the result under duress. Okorocha’s name was missing from the list of lawmakers-elect when the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, read out the roll call of eligible senators-elect from all states and the FCT for Tuesday’s election in Abuja.
Okorocha, who had earlier got an appeal court’s nod as senator-elect for Imo West, was yet to be issued a certificate of return, even after INEC said it would comply with all court orders. Out of the three slots for senators from Imo, only senator-elect Ezenwa Onyewuchi (PDP) from Imo East took part in the elections at the upper legislative chamber.
The election of Benjamin Uwajumogu for Imo North is yet to be determined; hence only 107 out of the 109 senators-elect were eligible to cast their votes using secret balloting.