Sani, a member of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) at a press conference in Kaduna, on Monday, urged INEC to substitute Mustapha, its defence Counsel at the tribunal, alleging conflict of interest.
“We have enough evidence that A.U Mustapha is a personal lawyer to Nasiru El-Rufa’i, Governor of Kaduna State.
“He is the one representing Governor El-Rufa’i in a case of defamation which he filed against me in four courts in Kaduna State.
“As a personal lawyer to El-Rufa’i now hired by INEC in a case where El-Rufai is a party is not acceptable.
“It is suspicious that the governor of the state and INEC are using A.U. Mustapha and Co, who remains El-Rufa’i personal lawyer”, he said.
But Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education told Sani that, the petition he filed was against Uba Sani, a Senator-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC and not Governor El-Rufai, hence it was not a factor to consider in hiring the lawyer.
Okoye in a statement released Monday night 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 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.
“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”.
James Kwen, Abuja