Romanus Ugwu and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The Independent National Election Commission (INEC), has issued certificate of returns to the House of Representatives-elect for Okigwe South Federal Constituency in Imo state, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, denying the claim by some politicians that it had been disobeying court orders and judgements.
Speaking while issuing the certificate, National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, described the claim by some politicians as untrue and a mere attack on the reputation and credibility of the commission.
He appealed to political parties and senior lawyers involved in election petition process to engage subordinates versed in the process to avoid misinterpretation.
“This present commission is committed to obey all court orders and judgments. As far as this commission is concern, it is not our duty to adjudicate on matters, the moment court adjudicate on matters and we have satisfied copies of the judgment of court; we are duty bound to obey and enforce such laws from court judgment, whether it is favourable to the commission or not
“We are now in election petition process; the commission is joined as a respondent; we want to appeal to senior lawyers that we are representing both the petitioner and respondent especially when their dealings concern the electoral commission.
“The headquarters does not warehouse ballot papers and other electoral materials; the electoral materials are warehoused either in the various local government or the state offices of the commission.
“What happens is that when parties who are in petition process, they apply to the court for inspection and photocopies of materials; those court orders are served on us and it is the duty of the commission to direct the appropriate local government or state to release those statements to the lawyers who engage in election petition process.
“But sometimes, senior lawyers send junior lawyers who know nothing about election petition law to the commission, they drop letters in the national headquarters and demand documents that ordinarily are not suppose to be here and if you don’t give them those documents they just walk across the gate and address a press conference that the commission has refused to obey court orders.
“I believe that senior lawyers should be very careful with the way they make some comments and when they send people to come and collect or process documents they should send lawyers who understand election petition process and how the system works.
“We are committed to giving all the political parties that are with the election petition process whatever documents they demand so long as we have those documents. Any documents we have we will make it available to political parties; it is not our business to adjudicate on matters here, but the business of election petition tribunals to adjudicate on matters. We want to appeal to political parties, lawyers within the election petition process to show leadership and courage when handling issues of obeying court orders by the commissions,” he appealed.
Responding after receiving the certificate of return, Nwajiuba commended INEC, the judiciary for retrieving his stolen mandate, appealing to the national leadership of All Progressive Congress (APC) to consider South East in the zoning of the principal offices in 9th National Assembly, especially the speakership position.
Explaining how tough the contest was, Nwajiuba said: “Even though this election was conducted on the February 23, with a rerun-on March 9, and final collation on March 23, it has taken this long to collect my certificate of return due to an earlier mistake by INEC in giving the certificate of return to a person who was adjudged by law as not being a candidate in 2019 general election,” he said.
Calling on the national leadership of APC to consider the South East in the zoning of principal offices especially the Speakership position, he said: “APC made great progress in 2019 than in 2015 elections. So, zoning such a position to the region will enhance national stability, inclusiveness and consolidation of the APC in the South East.”