Court fixes July 19 for ruling on legal representation of INEC
Akwa Ibom State High Court 4 sitting in Uyo has adjourned the case between Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Prof. Ignatius Uduk, who was accused of electoral fraud, over objections raised against INEC’s legal representation.
Justice Archibong Archibong adjourned the case to July 19, 2021, to enable INEC to respond on point of law on its decision to withdraw the letter introducing Clement Onwenwunor as the principal counsel to the electoral body in the case.
Counsel for the accused, Abasiodiong Ekpenyong, had opposed Kpoobari Sigalo’s replacement with Clement Onwenwunor, who had in the previous sitting presented a letter to the court introducing himself as INEC’s lead counsel.
Ekpenyong maintained that the document filed by the prosecution was not done in accordance with the law and as provided in the Akwa Ibom State criminal law.
He stated that the fiat was authorised by the Attorney General of the state instead of the Federal Government, as INEC was a federal agency.
He argued that since the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General issued the fiat for the prosecution, he usurped powers of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), insisting that there was no charge before the court and asked for dismissal of the case.
In his response, Onwenwunor asked the court to adopt the rejoinder filed on July 12, 2021, in respect of the objection, adding that counsel for the accused did not cite the law that was bridged.
He said since the objection to his fiat was presented verbally, he also responded verbally, and that if the court considered the submissions of the accused, it should also consider his pleas.
He argued that the objection that the fiat must be obtained from the AGF was incorrect, adding that according to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), his powers could be exercised at any time.
Onwenwunor also submitted that he did not need a fiat from the AGF, as the State could engage a private practitioner.
After hearing submissions of both counsels, the court accepted the fiat sent by INEC’s counsel but counsel to the accused opposed it on the ground that the practitioner’s name was not stated in the letter.
Onwenwunor then sought withdrawal of the letter for proper filing, which the court granted.