Another judge withdraws from Rochas Okorocha’s lawsuit to claim his ‘certificate of return’

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Another judge has withdrawn from a suit filed by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, seeking an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West.  

This comes barely a week after the first judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, withdrew from the case. After Justice Taiwo withdrew from the case on April 10, it was reassigned to Justice Okon Abang also of the Federal High Court in Abuja.   Justice Abang was said to have on April 11 fixed April 18 for hearing in the suit.  

However, on the date fixed for the hearing, Justice Abang announced his decision to withdraw from the suit. His decision was anchored on Okorocha’s letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, asking for the transfer of the case to another judge.  

The governor, in the letter, was said to have sought the transfer of the case to another judge because opponents in the case were jubiliating that Justice Abang would dismiss the case.   The judge, upon seeing the letter in the file, immediately informed parties of his withdrawal from the suit. Justice Taiwo had earlier withdrawn from the suit following allegations of bias levelled against him by two parties to the suit.

INEC had refused to certificate of return to Okorocha on the basis that the Returning Officer for the February 23 election, Prof Francis Ibeawuchi, said he declared the outgoing governor winner of the senatorial election under duress. Okorocha had subsequently filed the suit, challenging INEC’s decision to withhold the certificate of return due to him as the winner of the election.