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National Assembly: INEC Says No To Impunity As Ihedioha Probes Okorocha

 By Elizabeth Chukwuma

Rochas Okorocha, a former governor of Imo state, regarded in political circles as an emperor, who ruled  the state  for eight years on the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC . but handed over power to Emeka Ihedioha, a former Deputy Speaker House of Representatives on May 29, 2019, who won the last governorship election in the state and won,  is not ready to remain politically jobless.

 Okorocha had contested the February 23, 2019, National Assembly election on the platform  of the  APC, to represent the  Imo West district,    but was stopped by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on alleged irregularities. Prior to contesting the National Assembly election, he had wanted , Uche Nwosu, his son -In-law, to take over from him as the governor of the state but was outsmarted by the party national leadership led by Adams Oshiomhole, who  threw their weight behind  Hope Uzodinmma, a a Senator of Federal republic of Nigeria,   thus making it impossible for him to have his Candidate as the next governor  of the state.

  The former governor , was optimistic of winning the Imo West  Senatorial  election but got it wrong. perhaps , when he found that his dream of becoming a a elected Senator  may not be realised, he was said to have used force to get the Seat which was quickly conveyed to the Commission Headquarters in Abuja which has no option but to nullify his result and awarded victory to Jones Oyereri, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Candidate, described by the returning officer as the real winner of the Imo West Senatorial election.

It was not surprising why  Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, INEC,  issued the Certificate of return was issued to the Oyereri, the PDP , Candidate , amidst protest by the former  governor. Aware that  the only language that Nigerians who are in a position of Authority understands most  was Court Order , he has headed to an Abuja High  Court , presided over by  Justice Okon Abang, to force  the Commission to release his Certificate of Return.

Rochas Okorocha: Battles to Foce INEC Issue Certificate Of Return To Him

 The Imo state born politician had earlier told those that cares to listen that he defeated Onyereri,  the PDP, Candidate, who was declared the winner of the  Imo West district Senatorial   election , and therefore, should be issued the Certificate of Return by INEC. Describing the INEC’s decision to deny him the Certificate of Return as an elected Senator  as ”lawless and arbitrary”., he had vowed to pursue the matter until the Commission see reason to issue him with  his Certificate of Return which qualifies him to be in the Hallowed Chamber.

 He has obtained an injunction in the  Abuja High  Court as Justice Abang,  had ruled based on the relevant  information at her disposal  that the former Imo state governor actually  won the Imo West Senatorial district election and therefore  should be issued with the Certificate of Return by INEC. 

Many had expected that with that with the Court pronouncement , Yakubu, the INEC, Chairman, will rush to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier  issued to the PDP Candidate and transfer it to him but it was not done  fueling speculations that  his hope of being a lawmaker in the ninth National Assembly  would remain a dashed hope,

An angry Okorocha who could not take it had argued  that   INEC, has no legal Authority  to still withhold  his Certificate of Return having being declared winner by competent  Court of Law.   But political watchers may want the former Imo state  governor to know that President Muhammadu Buhari who, has given the Commission and other  government Institutions power to do their job may have emboldened  the Agency to take decisions without looking back.

 The  annulment of  the election of the election of  all APC,  Candidates, in  Zamfara state  including that of the governor based on a Court ruling which gave victory to the PDP Candidates and any other party Candidate that came second  in  any of the state and Federal  Constituencies , during the last general election speaks volumes.  

  Already the Commission has  given the PDP  Candidates Certificate of Return and  Bello Matawalle, the party governorship Candidate, has already been sworn in. this should serve as warning to Okorocha, the immediate past  Imo state governor, that he may not win the case in Court   as the Commission says  ”it will meet as soon as possible  over the Order of the Abuja High Court to issue a Certificate  of Return to Okorocha, the former Imo state governor.

Festus Okoye, a Lawyer, and National Commissioner in-charge of the Commission ‘s Information and Voter’s Education, noted that this may not be the first Court Order on the Imo West Senatorial election, showing how desperate Okorocha  is to be a member of the upper legislative House.  He cited  the Order of   the state High Court , presided over  by Justice Njemanze, which directed  the electoral umpire  ”not to issue  a Certificate of Return  to any of the Candidates that contested  the Imo West Senatorial district  election.

According to him, the Abuja High Court Order  was the” latest  in time  and determined   the rights of the parties  in relation  to the subject matter of the Certificate  of Return , in respect of the Imo West  Senatorial  Election”. The INEC top official who could not hide his feelings  is worried  that ”if electoral impunity  is allowed  to flourish , any  individual  can harass, intimidate  and put the Commission’s officials under duress, procure  a favourable declaration and be rewarded  with a Certificate of Certificate of Return”.

He had alluded to Okorocha, who used  force to procure favourable declaration, an indication that that INEC, may appeal against the court  ruling  to avoid  giving room to politicians  to follow the footstep of the former Imo state governor to  procure favourable declaration in future election  in the country. The Commission  may have sent a signal to him that he may not  be issued the Certificate of Return on a platter of gold without a legal battle which  may terminate in the Supreme Court.

Ihedioha, may have made matters  worse for the former governor by setting up an eight-man  financial advisory Committee headed by  Abraham Nwankwo, with a mandate to  ascertain and document the locations  and balances  on all  bank accounts  operated by the last Administration , ministries, Departments and Agencies  as  at May 29, which many described as a robe of the Okorocha Administration, which may expose can of worms about the regime.

The Committee, according to Uche Onyeagucha, the Secretary  to the state government , was also given  the responsibility  to review  all the financial transactions  of the government  and where necessary  ”carry out forensic  audit”, with a view to ascertaining the sources of funds and application of same”. This is in addition to documenting  ”revenues generated internally , subventions and allocations between 2011 and 2019 from the Federal government.. 

The Committee was said to have been  further mandated    to review all fund disbursements and applications of state resources to ascertain the  propriety of  charges levied  on accounts, interest payment on loans and deposits and Authorisation as well as review the operations  of Imo Board of Internal Revenue . Onyeagucha, the secretary to the government , said the  essence of reviewing the Board   was basically  for the Committee to recommend appropriate strategies  to reposition  the agency  for better performance  and improve its  internal revenue generation in the state to avoid over dependence on the Federal government for financial allocations and subventions.

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