Published On: Tue, May 14th, 2019

Stop sending junior lawyers to INEC for documents, Okoye tells senior counsel

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By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised senior lawyers engaged in the election petition process to stop sending junior lawyers to the headquarters of the commission to collect or process documents as regards election tribunal.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, made the call on Monday while presenting Certificate of Return to Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba, the House of Representatives member-elect, representing Okigwe South Federal constituency (Ehime, Mbano/Ihitte, Uboma/Obowo).
Okoye assured that INEC is irrevocably committed to obeying court orders and court judgements, stressing that as far as the commission is concerned, it is the duty and responsibility of courts to adjudicate on matters.
He made it clear that whenever the certified true copy of the judgement of court is served on INEC, the commission would obey and enforce all court judgements.
According to Okoye, “We are now in the election petition process and in almost all the election petitions, the commission is joined as a respondent.
“We want to appeal to senior lawyers who are representing both the petitioners and respondents to be circumspect especially when issues concern their dealings with INEC.
“The headquarters (of INEC) does not warehouse ballot papers and other election materials. Election materials are warehoused either in the various local government or at various offices of the commission.
“So, what happens is that when parties who are in the election petition process apply to the court for the inspection of the materials or for the photocopy of materials, those court orders are served on us. “It is now the responsibility of the commission to direct the appropriate local government or appropriate state to release those document to the lawyers who are engaged in the election petition process.
“Sometimes, senior lawyers send junior lawyers who know next to nothing about election petition to the commission and they drop letters in the national headquarters here and ask for document that are ordinarily not supposed to be here and when we don’t give them those documents, they just work across the gate and address a press conference claiming that the commission has refused to obey court order.
“I believe that senior lawyers should be very careful in the way they make some comments, and when they are sending people to collect documents or process documents, they should send lawyers who understand election petition process and how the system works”, he said.
The commission concretely assured that it was committed to giving all the political parties that are in the election petition process whatever documents they want.
It however appealed to the political parties, and the lawyers engaged in the lection petition process to show leadership and show courage when dealing with issues around whether the commission has obeyed a particular court order or whether the commission has not obeyed court order.
Hon. Nwajiuba, who contested the election on the platform of Acord Party (AP), thanked the party for their support during the election.
It will be recalled that a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court
Kubwa, Abuja, had ruled that the All Progressives Congress (APC) did
not conduct party primary for the constituency, saying the primary
that produced Chika Okafor, was conducted by the defunct Imo APC
coalition splinter group which was not the INEC recognised APC
primaries
The judgement delivered by Hon. Justice Kawu Bello, barred INEC from
recognising Okafor but still went ahead to contest the election.
However, a member of the APC approached the court and the court
declared the second runner up (Nwajiuba) as the winner of the
election.

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