Niger State governorship election petition tribunal has struck out the application by counsel to the All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate and incumbent governor, Abubakar Bello, seeking to disqualify the lead counsel to the petitioner and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Umar Nasko
The lead counsel to Governor Bello and APC, Mr. Samuel Okutepa, SAN, had at the resumed sitting in Minna, sought the tribunal to disqualify Alhaji Abdulmalik Ndayako who is the leading counsel to the PDP candidate on the grounds that he (Ndayako) was the running mate to the petitioner in the election.
Mr. Okutekpa in the application vehemently objected to Abdulmalik Ndayako representing the petitioner, arguing that he was an active participant in the matter that brought about the petition.
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According to the counsel, Abdulmalik Ndayako was the running mate to Alhaji Umar Mohammed Nasko as such under the law could not represent himself in the case.
But in his response to the application, counsel to Umar Nasko, Alhaji Abdulmalik Ndayako, described the position of the lead counsel to the petitioner as an attempt to waste time, saying that the law allowed him to represent himself and the petitioner in the case before the tribunal.
Ndayako quoting Rule 20 Sub section 1 of the professional ethics law, Section 3 of the 3rd amendment to the electoral act and Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution said under the law, he could represent the petitioner.
In the ruling on the application in Minna on Sunday, the Chairman of the tribunal Justice J. Igboji dismissed Okutepa’s application, saying that Ndayako is eminently qualified to represent the petitioner on the ground that he (Ndayako only contested the election as the deputy governorship candidate and was not part of the decision making of INEC.
The tribunal further held that Ndayako was not listed as a witness in the case, and that the tribunal could not at that point speculate whether or not he would become a witness in the case.
According to the tribunal, Ndayako’s name had not being mentioned in any of the processes that would warrant his disqualification, pointing out that the tribunal does not deal in speculations.
In his reaction, counsel to the PDP and the party’s candidate described the position of the tribunal as “very right” saying that “they have vindicated our stand on the application.”
On his part Mr Okutekpa said it was the responsibility of counsels to make applications and that of the tribunal to rule “in this case the tribunal has taken a stand.”
Asked if he would appeal the ruling Mr Okutekpa said: “I can’t say yes or no until I discuss with my client; I don’t act on the impulse of myself, if I have instruction why not?”
The tribunal will continue its sitting on Tuesday.