Thousands of youths, on Tuesday, caused heavy traffic gridlock on major roads within Owerri, the Imo State capital, protesting the ruling of the election petition tribunal for Imo West on March 9, 2019.
The irate youths from Orlu Zone of the state proceeded to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state where they demanded from the election umpire to join in the suit to appeal the tribunal verdict.
Speaking on behalf of the youths, under the aegis of Orlu Zone Youth Platform and Orlu Zurumee (youth wing), Orient Nnwadike and Marcus Ben described the ruling as unacceptable and miscarriage of justice.
They appealed to the judiciary and other relevant authorities to ensure that the verdict was revisited and the mandate giving to the rightful person who, according to them, is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jones Onyereri.
“We the youths of Orlu Zone are here to inform INEC that we are not happy with the tribunal ruling and we do not accept it. The ruling, if allowed to stand, would breed further violence and undermine the process of democracy in this country.
“We are here to ask INEC that they should go to appeal to testify on the judgment. All we want is justice where the right person is given the mandate of the people.”
Responding, the state Resident Election Commissioner (REC), Professor Francis Ezeonu, represented by INEC’s public relations officer, Emmanuella Ben-Opara, assured the protesting youths that INEC would always avail itself when invited by the court to testify on the matter.
He said the commission was committed to ensuring free and credible elections, pointing out that INEC did not possess the power to upturn the ruling of a tribunal or court.
“INEC as a body is determined to do the needful. Once we are subpoena to come and defend or present anything in court, INEC by duty must be there.
“As for the declaration at the tribunal, I want to let you know that INEC at this point cannot do much.”
It would be recalled that the tribunal which sat in Abuja on Monday had upheld the declaration of the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Rochas Okorocha, by INEC as the winner of the poll.
This came after the claims by the INEC staff, Professor Innocent Ibeawuchi, who served as the zonal returning officer for the election, that he had declared the contentious result in favour of Okorocha under duress.