The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Tuesday issued the Certificate of Return to former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, as winner of the Imo West Senatorial District election held on February 23.
It, however, vowed to appeal the judgment ordering it to issue the Certificate him.
Meanwhile, the former Governor in a statement by his media aide, Sam Onwuemedo, has thanked INEC for complying with the court judgment.
The statement also read in part: “With the release of his certificate of return as the Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District, former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has thanked God.
“He also thanked Nigerians for their concern and solidarity all through the period his certificate of return was an issue.
“He also expressed gratitude to the judiciary for being there for those who hunger for justice.”
INEC, in a statement issued by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee Mr. Festus Okoye, also on Tuesday in Abuja, noted that with the issuance of the certificate to Okorocha, the electoral body demonstrated its commitment to obeying court judgments, even those it might have issues with.
He explained that the decision the comply with the court order was reached after the commission met and considered 14 Memoranda involving judgments and orders in pre-election matters relating to the issuance of certificates and or withdrawal of certificates already issued in pre-election matters.
The statement said: “Amongst the memoranda considered, is the one concerning the judgment on the Imo West Senatorial district by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
“The Commission decided to comply with the court judgment by issuing a certificate of return to the plaintiff, Rochas Okorocha in compliance with the judgment and Orders of Hon. Justice Okon Abang.
“It will also appeal against the said judgment.”
Okoye noted that the commission also took into consideration the orders of two High Courts in Owerri Judicial Division restraining the commission from issuing certificate of return in respect of the said senatorial district, but pointed out those were interim orders and not final orders of court.
He expressed reservations about the judgment of the Abuja court: “However, the commission must put on record its very profound concerns about the likely consequences of this judgment for our electoral process in particular and our democracy in general.
“Obviously, persons who seek elective offices can perceive in this judgment an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law.
“It is not far-fetched that some of them can in future disregard laid down processes, including voting, arm themselves and mobilise thugs and compel Returning Officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of elections.
“Moreover, it may become increasingly difficult for the commission to convince its officials that they are safe to carry out their legitimate functions without fear of being harassed, held to ransom or visited with bodily harm.”
Recall that INEC had withheld Okorocha’s certificate of return following the pronouncement by its Returning Officer, Prof Innocent Ibeabuchi, that he declared Okorocha winner of the election under duress.
Recall also that prior to the elections, INEC had warned that it would not issue certificates to candidates who engaged in acts inimical to the electoral process and particularly, to its staff.