Okorocha vs INEC: Court suspends proceedings
A Federal High Court in Abuja, has suspended further proceedings on the suit filed against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by the Governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
The court suspended proceedings of the suit in wait the outcome of an appeal that was filed by the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA,
The appellant accordingly urged the Court of Appeal to allow his appeal and set aside the ruling of the trial court made on May 8, 2019. Before his appeal, Senator Izunaso had petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court over what he termed as an act of misconduct by the trial Judge. Meantime, before further proceedings was suspended in the matter, Okorocha through his lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, alleged a deliberate attempt by Izunaso and others to frustrate his case. Though he urged the court to ignore Izunaso’s appeal and proceed with hearing of the substantive suit, Justice Abang, held that he was minded to respect the judicial hierarchy. Justice Abang who initially threatened to commit Izunaso to prison for what he termed as his unruly behaviour, said he would adjourn the matter to May 30 for mention It will be recalled that the first Judge that was assigned the case, Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, disqualified himself from the matter following a petition that was lodged against him by candidates of the PDP and APGA who accused him of bias.
Okorocha who vied for Senate on the banner of the All Progressives Congress, APC, had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, maintained that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, saying he was validly elected to occupy the senatorial seat. He is praying the court to declare that the electoral body acted in error when it refused to recognise him, even after the returning officer had declared him winner. The Plaintiff’s bid to secure interim order against INEC suffered a setback due to multiple applications by candidates that participated in the election. Those the court earlier joined in the suit were Mr. Nwachukwu Clement of KOWA party, Precious Nwadike of United Progressive Party, UPP, Dr. Uche Ibeh of Labour Party, and APGA. They all notified the court of their intentions to file preliminary objections to challenge the competence of suit. The Defendants said they were opposed to the issuance of Certificate of Return to the plaintiff. INEC had declined to issue Certificate of Return to Okorocha who was the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, after the returning officer alleged that he was forced to declare him winner under duress.