The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will not issue certificates of return to elected public officers under duress.
INEC Director of Voter Education, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, stated this during an interview on The Verdict which aired on Channels Television on Friday.
According to him, a situation whereby a Returning Officer is being threatened to declare a party’s candidate winner of an election under gunpoint or knifepoint amounts to illegality.
“A return is made when the Returning Officer is satisfied that the candidate has met the requirements of law. It is a voluntary act of the returning officer.
“You cannot point a gun to a returning officer’s head and say sign this, he signs it and then says I have been declared (winner). That is illegality, that is not his act.
“We will only issue a certificate by law when we are satisfied that the Returning Officer of his own free will has made a declaration having satisfied himself or herself that the candidate that was returned has satisfied the requirements of the law,” he said.
When asked if the Commission has the power to determine whether a Returning Officer declared the result under duress, he explained that INEC can take the decision on that “administratively”.
Although he explained that it is only the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, that can only issue or withhold a Certificate of Return, he maintained that the court can order the Commission to do otherwise in a situation where a Returning Officer declares the result under duress.
“Administratively, we can take certain decisions. This is an administrative decision. This is not in compliance with the law. If we are wrong, then the court will correct us,” he said.
Recall that in the just concluded National Assembly elections,Imo West Senatorial District, Innocent Ibeabuchi, said he was “detained at the centre for days.”
He said this while announcing the results of the senatorial election for the zone.
Before reeling out figures at the district collation centre in the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) Office in Orlu, Mr Ibeabuchi, a professor, said he was being held “under duress” to announce the results.
“My name is Ibeabuchi Izuchukwu Innocent, a professor at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), the returning officer for Imo West (Orlu) senatorial zone”, the official said.
“My area commander; my P.Os; the party agents here present; members of the press; ladies and gentlemen.
“I have been held hostage here for days so I’m trying to ease off and take my life home back to my children and for the sake of that I am calling these results under duress,” the returning officer said.