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Tribunal: INEC, Shehu Sani bicker over choice of counsel

By Hassan Ibrahim and Adekunle Adebayo

The Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani and Independent National Electoral Commission have locked horn over the decision of the commission to hire A.U. Mustapha as its counsel at the state election petitions tribunal.

While the lawmaker accused INEC of hiring a personal lawyer of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to represent it at the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Kaduna, the commission quickly responded that it will not be in any “illicit” liaison with any individual or group.

Sani, at a press conference in his home town in Kaduna on Monday, argued that it was wrong for the electoral body to hire a personal lawyer of the governor, who is also a party in the suit at the tribunal.

“INEC has decided to hire Governor El-Rufai’s personal lawyer as its counsel. It is suspicious that the governor of the state and INEC are using A.U. Mustapha, who remains Governor El-Rufai’s personal lawyer.

“He is the one defending Governor El-Rufai in a case of defamation which he filed against me in four courts in Kaduna State. A personal lawyer of El-Rufai is now being hired by INEC in a case where El-Rufai is a party,” the lawmaker had said.

But in a swift reaction to the accusation in a statement on Monday by the commission’s national commissioner, Festus Okoye, explained it has a list of external solicitors engaged for the prosecution of pre and post-election matters.

Okoye noted that these solicitors are based in different parts of the country and must have represented a variety of clients and interests in the past, adding that they are guided by the commission’s Code of Conduct for External Solicitors.

He explained further that in selecting external solicitors, it is guided by the highest standard of ethics in recommending solicitors to represent it.

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