Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says Livy Uzoukwu, his lead counsel at the tribunal, is qualified to practise in Nigeria.
His legal team at the tribunal where he is challenging the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari, comprises 31 lawyers led by Uzoukwu.
In its response as the first respondent in the case, INEC had said the petition filed by Atiku was not signed by a legal practitioner licensed to practise in Nigeria.
The electoral body challenged the choice of Uzoukwu, saying he was not on the roll call of lawyers called to the bar in the country.
But reacting in a statement by Phrank Shaibu, his spokesman, Atiku said the counter affidavit “specifically referred to documents signed by the learned SAN as Dr Livy Uzoukwu as against one Dr. Livinus Uzoukwu which INEC acknowledged to be on the roll call, arguing that both names could not be referring to one and same person.”
Atiku said the electoral body exhibited “crass ignorance” as the use of abbreviations by counsels had been settled by the supreme court.
He alleged that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC have assembled a team of lawyers “intent on misleading the courts and Nigerians in general”.
“It’s either INEC is not aware or chose to maintain a blind eye as far as this issue is concerned. How can you say a former Attorney General of Imo State and a SAN is not qualified to practice law in Nigeria?” he asked.
“This is a clear case of crass ignorance and incomparable display of low level of illiteracy intended to mislead the court and Nigerians.”
Citing a supreme court judgement permitting counsels to use abbreviations as well as their full names, Atiku said the use of Livy as against Livinus in the roll call of lawyers called to the bar does not in anyway diminish the qualification of his counsel.
“In the case of DANKWANBO v ABUBARKAR (2015) LPELR-25716(SC), the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment comprising of a full court of 7 Justices held: Whether an abbreviated name of counsel is permissible for endorsement on court processes, I must say clearly, that an abbreviated name is legal and permissible, “the court judgement quoted by Atiku, read in part.
“It does not cease to be a person’s name or render it to lose its juristic personality. In other words, an abbreviation of the ﬁrst name of any person whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners does not render the abbreviated name to become unregistered or unknown to law as argued by the appellant.
“This is a diﬀerent situation from the use of two names that are on the role as a Legal Practitioner’s name to ﬁle processes in court.”