Conflict Of Interest: Civil Group Petitions INEC For Using Same Lawyers Defending Political Parties In Election Petitions

A coalition, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), has petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), calling for the debriefing and removal of one its lawyers’, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN, for gross misrepresentation of the commission.

In a petition signed by the coalition’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the group stated that that some lawyers engaged by the INEC are also defending political parties in a number of election petitions, which have just been concluded throughout the country.

“As contained in our letter dated 2nd June 2015 to your office, we have in the pursuit of our Election and Tribunal Monitoring Project demanded the debriefing of Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN by the Commission and also the removal of his name from the list of Counsels to the Commission.

“That demand was to prevent further disregard for the Commission’s directives and accurate representation of the Commission in election petition before tribunal, where the counsel and some others are misrepresenting the Commission in their defences,“ the CSNAC petition continued.

CSNAC also noted that the lawyers contacted by INEC are also defending political parties in courtrooms across Nigeria.

The petition also read that, “in a most embarrassing manner, the INEC lawyers made legal submissions to the effect that the use of card readers was not made compulsory by the INEC during the 2015 General Elections.“

CSNAC also stated that some of these lawyers fought against the use of verification card readers by INEC, and that engaging with this legal counsel after that fact opens INEC to ridicule by Nigerians and the international community.

CSNAC called for the thorough vetting of all INEC consortium lawyers and that any legal counsel found to be engaged in the conflict of interest be removed for service.

The petition concluded by stating that INEC should “take notice that if our humble request is not met we shall have no other alternative than to sue the INEC for retaining lawyers who are using the name and resources of the INEC to subvert democracy in Nigeria.”

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