As senators-elect chose the principal officers of their choice, including the Senate president and his deputy, the former governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha’s name was missing from the list of lawmakers-elect from the state.
This was revealed when the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, on Tuesday, read out the roll call of eligible senators-elect from all states and the FCT, for Tuesday’s election in Abuja.
Out of the three slots for senators from Imo State, only senator-elect Ezenwa Onyewuchi (PDP) from Imo East was mentioned at the chamber.
The election of Benjamin Uwajumogu for Imo North is yet to be determined.
Hence, 107 out of the 109 senators-elect were eligible to cast their votes using open secret balloting.
An Abuja Division of the Federal High on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to pay N200,000 to the former Imo Stata governor, Mr Okorocha, for failing to recognise him as the winner of the 2019 senatorial election in his state.
The court, in a judgment that lasted over four hours, nullified the failure of INEC to issue a certificate of return to Mr Okorocha on allegations he compelled the returning officer of his electoral district Innocent Ibeabuchi to declare him winner of the elections.
The court presided over by Justice Okon Abang also awarded a fine of N100,000 each against the second to the eighth defendants in the matter, in favour of Mr Okorocha.
According to the judge, INEC acted against the law when it decided to exclude Mr Okorocha from the list of elected senator despite a declaration by the Commission’s returning officer that Mr Okorocha had won the election.
After declaring Mr Okorocha winner of the February, 23 senatorial elections in the state, Mr Ibeabuchi later alleged that he was forced to declare Mr Okorocha as the winner of the said election.
Following that allegation, INEC excluded the name of Mr Okorocha from its list of newly elected senators and announced its resolve to deprive Mr Okorocha of the certificate of return.
Subsequently, the former governor approached the Court with a number of requests aimed at clarifying the validity of INEC’s decision.
The judge had ruled that Mr Okorocha remains the winner of the election and his recognition by the commission, “cannot be delayed one minute longer.”
“It is hereby declared that the returning officer haven declared the plaintiff winner of the election, the plaintiff remains returned as winner of the February 23 election.
“In view of Section 68 (c) of the electoral act, haven scored the highest number of valid votes cast at the election, the declaration is final.
“The refusal of the first defendant to include the name of the plaintiff in the list of elected candidates published on its website is ultra vias, unlawful null and void,” Mr Abang ruled.
Mr Abang ordered INEC to immediately recognise Mr Okorocha as the winner of the senatorial election and publish his name among the list of winners, till any further decision by the election tribunal.
“INEC shall forthwith publish and circulate the name of the plaintiff as senator-elect representing Orlu senatorial district.
“INEC shall issue the plaintiff certificate of return as the senator-elect representing the district.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr Okorocha, who got the court’s nod as senator-elect for Imo West, is yet to be issued a certificate of return by the INEC.