The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has replied Senator Shehu Sani (PRP, Kaduna Central) over his accusation that the commission is hiring Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s lawyer, A. U Mustapha (SAN) for the ongoing election petition tribunal cases.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who said this on Monday night in a statement, also denied the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) allegation that the commission was disobeying a court order for the inspection of election materials by the party.
Okoye said INEC has a list of External Solicitors that it engages for the prosecution of pre- and post-election matters and that these solicitors are based in different parts of the country and must have represented a variety of clients and interests in the past.
“However, the External Solicitors engaged by the commission for the prosecution of pre- and post-election matters are guided by the commissions Code of Conduct for External Solicitors.
“In selecting External Solicitors, the commission is guided by the highest standard of ethics in recommending solicitors to represent it.
“The petition in this matter was filed by Distinguished Senator Shehu Sani against the election of Uba Sani.
“The Governor of Kaduna state did not contest the senatorial election in Kaduna State and could not have been the major consideration and issue in the assignment of cases to external solicitors.
“The Governor of Kaduna State is not a respondent or party in the petition and the commission has no reason to believe that the solicitor appointed by the commission will subvert the cause of justice,” Okoye said.
According to him, the External Solicitor appointed by the commission is obligated to defend the election conducted by the commission and the Declaration and Return made thereafter.
While saying that INEC will submit the facts at its disposal and allow the tribunal to adjudicate on the issues, he said that the present commission has been upfront in the provision of documents to all the political parties engaged in election petitions and will continue to do so.
In another statement, Okoye said that on the PDP accusation, INEC is aware that there are petitions pending before the Presidential Election Petitions tribunal and that the commission is also aware that issues have been joined in the said petitions as the petitioners have filed their petitions and the respondents have responded to the petitions.
He said INEC as one of the respondents in the petition filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has responded to the said petition and that the commission is aware that very senior lawyers are representing the petitioners and the respondents in relation to the said petitions.
“The commission is a law-abiding institution and will not argue or canvass in the media, petitions that are sub-judice and where the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal is firmly seized of the issues.
“The lawyers representing the petitioners are seized of the state of the law and the course to take if they truly believe that the commission is in disobedience of the orders of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
“The Commission is a law-abiding institution and will continue to accord the requisite respect to judicial institutions and obey the orders of court,” Okoye said.