The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned some senior lawyers handling election petitions at tribunals to desist from sending junior lawyers to the commission to collect some documents.
According to the commission, these junior lawyers do not understand how election petition processes work.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye, gave this warning on Monday in Abuja when the commission issued a certificate of return to the House of Reps member-elect for Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency, Hon Emeka Nwajiuba.
Okoye stated that some of the junior lawyers on behalf of their bosses were fond of coming to the commission in search of some documents not meant for them and when the commission refuses to oblige them, they address press conferences accusing the commission of denying them the documents.
He called on the senior lawyers to be very careful in the way they make some comments and when they are sending people to the commission to come collect documents.
Okoye who presented the certificate of returns to Nwajiuba said the commission was committed to giving political parties that are in election petition process whatever documents they wanted so long as those documents were in the possession of the commission. He also assured that the commission would obey all court orders notwithstanding whether it favoured the commission or against it.
According to Okoye, it is not the duty of INEC to adjudicate on matters but the business of the election petition tribunal to adjudicate on such matters.
He urged the judiciary to use their interpretative powers to adjudicate on matters.
Okoye said, “Sometimes some senior lawyers send junior lawyers who know next to nothing about election petition to the Commission and they drop letters to the national headquarters here and ask for documents that ordinarily are not supposed to be given and when we don’t give them those documents, they will just walk across the gate and address a press conference claiming that the commission has refused to give them documents.
“So I believe that the senior lawyers should be very careful in the way they make some comments and when they are sending people to come and collect documents or process documents, they should send lawyers who understand election petition process and how the system works.
“On our own part, we are committed to giving all the political parties that are in election petition process whatever documents they want so long as we have those documents.
“Any documents we have, we will make it available to the political parties. It is not our business to adjudicate on matters here. It is the business of the election petition tribunal to adjudicate on matters.
“We want to appeal to political parties, we want to appeal to lawyers engaged in election 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 a particular court order.
“We are committed to obeying all court orders whether those court orders are in favour of the Commission or against the Commission. It is now left for the judiciary to use their interpretative powers to adjust on matters.”
The House of Reps member-elect, Hon Nwajiuba who was elected on the platform of the Accord Party (AP) commended INEC and the judiciary for retrieving his mandate.
He called on the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership to consider the South East in zoning principal offices of the National Assembly especially the Speakership of the House of Reps.
He said the APC has made steady progress between 2015 and 2019 in the zone, adding that zoning such position to the South East would lead to national stability, inclusiveness and consolidation.
Nwajiuba who served in the House of Reps between 1999-2003 became the winner in the last February 23 House of Reps election after the candidate of the APC was disqualified by the court.