Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom State has issued guidelines to all the lawyers defending the commission at the state election petition tribunal.
The guidelines titled “The role and expectation of INEC’s lawyers at the election petition tribunal in Akwa Ibom State,” are contained in a memo signed by the state resident electoral commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini, and made available to our correspondent.
The memo while congratulating the lawyers on their appointment as external solicitors and counsels to the commission in respect of matters assigned to their respective firms at the Election Petition Tribunal reminded them that INEC remains an unbiased umpire.
“The commission here in the state conducted the 2019 general elections in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (see S.160), the extant Electoral Act (see S.52) and the Guidelines and Manuals pursuant to Sections 73 and 153 of the Act; and by these enabling statutes, returns were made in the 2019 elections. Thus, the commission is willing and ready to give an account of how the elections were conducted and return made at the tribunal.
“As the tribunal commences hearing of the various petitions and as lawyers appointed by the commission to represent it at the tribunal as respondents, you must be mindful that INEC remains an umpire and not an aggrieved party that must defend at all cost the returns made at the expense of its status and role as an unbiased umpire.
“Your role as counsels to the commission in election petition proceedings is to ensure electoral justice by explaining the processes and procedures of how the returns were made through documentary evidence used in the 2019 general elections.
“The statutory role of the commission, even at election petition proceedings, remains one of an umpire in the conduct of elections. Therefore, l enjoin you to be mindful and conscious of this role and to avoid, if at all possible, any action that would place your representation in a position where imputations may be made that the commission is supportive of applications that are manifestly intended to deny other parties examination of election documents that they are entitled to examine or applications to delay proceedings at the tribunal.
“As a commission that conducted the 2019 general elections in Akwa Ibom State, we are committed to electoral accountability and ready to give a full account of how elections were conducted and return made,” the commission said.