INEC challenges jurisdiction of court on Okorocha’s suit

Okorocha: CSO writes police on planned protest over issuance of certificate by INEC
Access Bank Plc

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday urged the Federal High Court, Abuja to dismiss the suit filed by Imo Governor Rochas Okorocha challenging the commission’s refusal to issue him a certificate of return.

Okorocha is in court asking for an order, compelling the commission to issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.

At the resumed hearing, Counsel to INEC, Mrs Wendy Kuku urged the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent, just as the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

She attacked the jurisdiction of the court on grounds that being a post-election matter, it was only the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal that had jurisdiction to hear it.

Kuku submitted that the non-issuance of the certificate of return, which bordered on the executive and administrative act of INEC being challenged in the suit was election-related.

She argued that the cause of action, having arisen out of an election that had been conducted; the suit was not a matter within the jurisdiction of the court but that of the tribunal.

The counsel prayed the court to dismiss and or strike out the suit for lacking in merit and want of jurisdiction.

On his part, Mr N.A. Nnawuchi (SAN), Counsel to the 2nd defendant, (Jones Onyeriri), challenged the mode of the commencement of the suit.

Nnawuchi argued that commencing the suit by an originating summons, when the facts were in dispute rendered the suit incompetent.

He posited that the proper mode of bringing the action ought to have been by a writ of summons, where oral evidence could be called to resolve the dispute.

Nnawuchi urged the court to dismiss the suit or in the alternative, order pleadings where oral evidence could be called.

Earlier, Counsel to Okorocha, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), in his submission, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by his client.

Ogunwumiju argued that the issue of duress was the only defence raised by the defendants before the court and that INEC did not say anything about duress.

According to him, the 2nd to 8th defendants do not have any relationship with INEC or the returning officer to raise the issue of duress.

He submitted that the word duress was a state of mind of a person and that only a person upon whom duress was exerted could feel it.

“In this case, the returning officer alleged to have been put under duress is an agent of INEC and he has given no evidence whatsoever.

”INEC his principal has not raised any issue about duress. There is a conflict of evidence between the plaintiff and 2nd to 8th defendants.

“The law is that the court will rely on documentary evidence to resolve the issue.”

The lawyer said that the only documentary evidence before the court was the certified true copy of the police report on the collation of election result.

Ogunwumiju noted that the court would find that there was no issue of violence, threat or duress, urging the court to grant the reliefs sought by his client.

The trial Judge, Justice Okon Abang, adjourned the matter until May 20 for continuation of hearing.