The Independent National Electoral Commission has said Certificate of Return is only issued to candidates who win elections freely.
It added that for any elected person to earn a Certificate of Return, it must be through the freewill of a returning officer who supervised the electoral process.
INEC stated this as it cleared the air on its decision to withhold certificates of return to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and three others.
INEC National Electoral Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the decision “does not amount to shifting goalpost in the middle of a match.”
He told the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Awka that INEC only issues certificates to people who genuinely win elections.
“Issuance of certificate of return is a statutory function of INEC. It is only issued to those who won election and must be done through freewill of a returning officer.
“In the case of Imo West Senatorial zone where Okorocha contested, the Otu-Opi Federal Constituency in Benue, Agayi State Constituency and another in Akwa Ibom, what INEC is saying is that you can’t engage in bad electoral behaviour and expect INEC to reward you with a certificate.
“Our certificate is only for those who win freely,” he said.
Okoye said the Commission has the right not to issue certificate of return to persons it suspects of “bad electoral behaviour,” saying, “it would amount to abnormality.”
He said INEC’s action is not targeted at the voters who voted people of their choice, but to address “excesses of those who want to use unconventional means to win elections.”
“Once we have such case, INEC will not issue certificate, but ensure that the right thing is done,” he said.
He said at the moment, contenders of the positions in all the four affected areas are in court, adding that INEC is awaiting the outcome of the pending matters.
Okoye said if the court orders INEC to issue certificates of return to the people involved, it would do same.
He said if a consequential order is made, directing INEC to conduct fresh election in the areas, the Commission would do same.