Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, disqualified himself from presiding over the suit Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, filed to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), to issue him a Certificate of Return as the senator- elect for Imo West senatorial district.
At the resumed hearing of the case, Justice Taiwo told the parties that he would no longer entertain the case because of a petition filed against him by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the disputed Imo West senatorial election, Mr. Jones Onyereri.
The judge said he would transfer the case file back to the chief judge of the federal high court for re-assignment to another judge.
Onyereri, the PDP candidate had petitioned the Chief Judge of the federal high court after the case was adjourned last Friday claiming that Justice Taiwo made utterances which clearly showed that he had taken sides in the matter.
Recall that INEC had declined to issue Certificate of Return to Okorocha after the Returning Officer alleged that he was forced to declare him the winner of the election under duress.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Francis Ibeawuchi, declared Okorocha as the winner of the poll, having polled 97,762 votes ahead of his closest rival, Onyereri of the PDP who had 68,117 votes.
Ibeawuchi however claimed that he announced Okorocha as the winner to save his life and that of his family, adding that the election ought to have been declared inconclusive.
Okorocha had approached the court through his team of lawyers led by Kehinde Ogunwumiju(SAN) for an interim order to compel INEC to issue him Certificate of Return, pending the determination of the suit.
Okorocha, who contested the senate seat on the platform of All Progressives Congress(APC) had in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, maintained that INEC lacked the statutory powers to withhold his Certificate of Return, stating that he was validly elected to occupy the senatorial seat.
He prayed the court to declare that the electoral body acted in error when it refused to recognise him, even after the returning officer had declared him winner.
Meanwhile, three candidates that participated in the February 23 senatorial election on Friday, April 5 filed an application to be joined in the suit.
Those that filed the application are Mr. Nwachukwu Clement of KOWA party; Precious Nwadike of United Progressive Party(UPP); Dr. Uche Ibeh of Labour Party(LP). The court had earlier joined Hon. Onyeriri of the PDP and Senator Osita Izunaso of APGA as interested parties in the case.
The applicants were added as 2nd to 6th defendants in the case. They filed preliminary objections challenging the competence of the suit.
The defendants said they were opposed to the issuance of Certificate of Return to the plaintiff.