By Taye Obateru
JOS â€” The order of the Plateau State Local Government Election Appeal Tribunal stopping the use of private lawyers to defend petitions arising from the last council election in the state is generating ripples in legal and political circles.
Vanguard learnt that the tribunal, chaired by Justice Yargata Nimpar had ruled that the state Attorney-General had no power, under the state local government election law, to expend public funds on private lawyers when government lawyers were supposed to handle the cases.
It was alleged that about N186 million was set aside for the payment of the private lawyers engaged for the petitions out of about N1 billion said to have been budgeted to prosecute various legal cases this year.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Edward Pwajok, dismissed the allegation when contacted.
He told Vanguard that the amount set aside for payment ofÂ private counsels engaged for the election petitions was nowhere near the quoted amount, adding that the ministry had complied with the Tribunal order and was now using government lawyers to defend the petitions.
According to the Pwajok, â€œBefore now, the Attorney-General had the right to employ the services of external solicitors as it is deemed necessary. There are circumstances that warrant the Ministry of Justice to employ the services of external counsel. You will notice that even the federal INEC employs the services of private counsel.â€
â€œIt had been our assumption that we could employ the services of external lawyers. Our reason was because we are also saddled with so many responsibilities prosecuting and defending hundreds of cases in various courts.