…el-Rufai not respondent in the petition—INEC
By Ben Agande
Kaduna—The senator representing Kaduna Central senatorial district, Shehu Sani, has raised alarm over the alleged choice of Governor Nasir el- Rufai of Kanduna State’s lawyer as the counsel to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at the National Assembly Election Tribunal.
But INEC insisted that Gov el-Rufai is not a respondent in the petition, hence the choice of his lawyer.
The senator is claiming the alleged choice of lawyer by INEC has thrown up ethical issues on the appropriateness of such choice since el- Rufai is a party to cases at the tribunal.
INEC hired A. U. Mustapha, a personal lawyer to el-Rufai as counsel at the election petition tribunal in Kaduna State.
At a briefing, yesterday, Sani who earlier expressed confidence at the tribunal’s ability to do justice, demanded that the said lawyer be substituted because the lawyer remained the “personal lawyer of el-Rufai,” a party in the tribunal.
“INEC has decided to hire Governor el-Rufai’s personal lawyer as their counsel. It is suspicious and it proves governor of the state and INEC using A.U. Mustapha and Co, who remains personal lawyer of Governor el-Rufai.
“He is the one defending Gov el-Rufai in a case of defamation, which he filed against me in four courts in Kaduna State as a personal lawyer of el-Rufai, now is hired by INEC in a case where el-Rufai is a party. A.U. Mustapha is also standing for el-Rufai vs Union newspaper and Gabriel Idibia.
“For over 15 years, it is A.U. Mustapha who represents el-Rufai in courts and has represented him in several cases. How ethical is it for INEC that says it has conducted free and fair election to hire the services of a personal lawyer of a governor who himself is a party in court?”
He, however, added that the nation’s fledgling democracy could only thrive when the electoral system was free, fair and credible.
el-Rufai not respondent in the petition—INEC
INEC In a statement by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission has a list of external solicitors that it engages for the prosecution of pre and post-election matters. 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 commission’s 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.
“The external solicitor appointed by the commission is obligated to defend the election conducted by the commission and the declaration and return made thereafter. The commission will put forward the facts at its disposal and allow the tribunal to adjudicate on the issues.
“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.
“The commission is a responsible institution and a public trust and is not and will not be in any illicit liaison with any individual or group to subvert the cause of justice.
“We urge all persons and individuals to have faith in the commission and accord the commission the necessary cooperation to deliver on its mandate.”