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Plateau lawmakers: Between Electoral Act and 1999 Constitution

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Napoleon Bali/Simon Mwadkwon
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By John Akubo, Abuja

The last has not been heard of the electoral tribunal system that at the Appeal Court sacked all elected officers in Plateau State yet availed a leeway for only Governor Caleb Mutfwang to be reinstated at the Supreme Court. Feeling defrauded, concerned lawmakers are poised to test some provisions of the Electoral Act against the grundnorm of the 1999 Constitution – in a move that may be defining for the electoral system, JOHN AKUBO reports.

Gov Caleb Mutfwang

Despite the disagreement of senior lawyers on the fate of Plateau State lawmakers, wrongly sacked by the Court of Appeal, the last has not been heard about the discrepancies in the interpretation of the law by the court.

For the affected Senators, who vowed to take all legal means to secure justice, the issue now is to test the provision in the Electoral Act 2022, which terminated disputes arising from the elections into the National Assembly at the Appeal Court, contrary to the 1999 Constitution that ends all disputes at the Supreme Court.

The sacked Senators, Napoleon Bali, who represented Plateau South in the Senate and Simon Mwadkwon, who represented Plateau North Senatorial district, believed that they and other affected state Assembly lawmakers were unjustly treated by the Appeal Court to satisfy political interest of some powerful politicians in the state, stating that they have been vindicated by the Supreme Court decision that affirmed the election of the state governor, Caleb Mutfwang.

The lawmakers and the governor were produced by the same primaries conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State, the same day under the same guideline.

While the Appeal Court nullified the elections of the lawmakers and the governor based on the primaries of the party described as “illegal”, the Supreme Court disagreed with the decision of the lower court and reversed the decision of the Appeal Court.

The Supreme Court’s five-member panel led by Justice Emmanuel Agim reversed the decision of the appellate court for being perverse because the issue of the primary election that produced Mutfwang was outside the jurisdiction of the lower court.

The apex court pointed out that the validity of nomination and sponsorship is not a valid ground to void an election.

Justice Agim further stated that the issue of primary is an internal matter of political parties, which both the Tribunal and Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction.

Agim also pointed out that contrary to the claim of the petitioners and the judgment of the appellate court the order of the Plateau High Court was not disobeyed by the PDP as evidence showed that a fresh primary was conducted. He warned the legal profession to wake up or else it would render itself irrelevant to the society.

Justice John Okoro also lamented that a lot of people have suffered because of the wrongful judgments of the appellate court that had sacked several legislators who won elections under the platform of the PDP.

But the affected lawmakers will not continue to lament over the injustice as they have determined to seek redress against all odds.

They expressed happiness that the Supreme Court has brought some relief based on which they have resolved to put the constitution to the test since the apex court has ruled that the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to even entertain the matter ab initio.

In a telephone conversation with The Guardian, Senator Napoleon Bali said: “We are going to test the constitution because basically, our fundamental human rights have already been violated by the Appeal Court. If you look at it, the Electoral Act says the election issue should end at the Appeal Court for the National Assembly not the 1999 Constitution. So, what we intend to do is to test the Electoral Act versus the Constitution.

“The Justices of the Supreme Court clearly stated first of all, that no court or tribunal has the jurisdiction to even entertain our issue in Plateau State. The High Court in Jos and even the Appeal Court have no jurisdiction to entertain the issues. But for me again and annoyingly, I will mention with due respect that Justice Abang in his own judgement on me, said that I, Napoleon Bali participated in the 2023 election as an independent candidate.

“So, based on that he quoted the Constitution to say that it did not recognise independent candidates that is why he said my election was nullified. One, he is the only Justice that stated that and I am feeling very pained and angry. You know even if you want to beat anybody, you should not beat him on the eye, beat the person on the buttocks.

“Justice Abang used his pen, even though he knows it was the PDP that forwarded my name to INEC, yet he saw this thing, because he is a Judge, he has forgotten that I have served this country for 35 years, I retired as an Air Vice Marshal and as the number two man in the Air Force. I have participated in a lot of operations to keep Nigeria secure. I left the comfort of being a retired general to continue to serve.

“I did not go into politics to make money because I have served and I think I was able to save some money while I was still serving, my children are already out of the university.

“We are going to pursue this issue; we are not going to allow it to die like that. Our lawyers are already talking, I am not a lawyer, but we will find a way. It is true that the Electoral Act has barred us, but the 1999 Constitution, which is the ultimate, has not.

“With the bold comments of the Justices of the Supreme Court on our matter that we are suffering injustice, may the Almighty God bless all of them and the Chief Justice of Nigeria. I am very elated and specially thanking President Bola Tinubu for not interfering and for creating an enabling environment for the Justices to do their work without fear or favour.

“I am telling you that a lot of people have died in Plateau State as a result of this unjustified judgement like Justice Okoro said, what are we going to do about the people that died?

“Let Lalong go to the Southern Plateau and walk the street like me without security.  My summary is that we are law abiding citizens, we took the decision of the Appeal Court painfully. Now that the Supreme Court has declared that they were wrong, they don’t even have jurisdiction to even entertain that case. We are now looking for a legal way to go back to the Supreme Court to tell us what our fate is.

“Maybe they would say too bad, wait for another year. One Barrister Oworikoko said on Arise TV that it has happened in the past. He said the Supreme Court had at a time returned some elected legislators under similar situations. That is what we are going to explore,” he said.

For Senator Simon Mwadkwon who was the minority leader before the Appeal Court judgement sent him packing, he said: “As for me, the Appeal Court judgement said I am to go for a rerun, which is different from that of my colleague that was sacked outrightly.

“That is to tell you the level of confusion in the Appeal Court because for me and my colleagues in the National Assembly that were sacked it was the same grounds of appeal, the same court, but you cannot explain why somebody will be detailed for a rerun and the other outright sack.

“Be that as it may, we noticed the confusion in the Court of Appeal and that is to tell you that their judgements were not based on law but on other sentiments, which they know better. As far as we are concerned the Apex court has ruled and reinstated the governor and we must also benefit from the judgement because it was same grounds of appeal as the National Assembly. If the Judiciary should be fair to us we should also benefit because we were sacked unjustly, so we are not going to stay behind and watch.

“We will meet our lawyers; we will discuss with them so that this injustice would be turned to justice for all of us. We are going to rely on what our laws will tell us and what would be the grounds of the law in the face of this judgement from the apex court. We strongly believe that we should be allowed to go back and complete our tenure in the National Assembly without further delay because we won our election, the Supreme Court has said it.

“The Supreme Court even said that the issue should not have been brought before the court because they lack the jurisdiction. They were all pre-election matters and that we did not disobey any court order. So, the law was wrongly applied to us.”

However, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has called for the amendment of sections 233(1)(E), 246(1)(3) of the Constitution as amended, adding that all election cases should now end at the Supreme Court

In a statement by its national secretary Peter Ameh, titled Court of Appeal miscarriage of justice and the urgent need to amend Sections 233(1)(E), 246(1)(3) of the Constitution, the coalition called on the National Assembly to commence without delay the amendment of Sections 233. (1)(e) and 246(1)(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended to extend appellate jurisdiction for State and National Assembly election disputes to the Supreme Court.

This he said is to avert a repeat of the disaster of injustices meted on the validly elected National and State Assembly Members of PDP and Labour Party extraction from Plateau, Enugu, Abia, and other states.

“This call has become necessary due to the irreparable damage caused to the elected members who have been unjustly removed from their legitimate seats by the Court of Appeal despite the plethora of earlier decided and settled cases by the Supreme Court, which by the doctrine of stare decisis binds the Court of Appeal.”

Culled From the Guardian

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More troube for Abure as aggrieved LP candidates demand prosecution

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***Insist he forged their purported withdrawal letters to substitute them

There seem to be no respite yet for the embattled Labour Party (LP) national chairman as two governorship candidates and a House of Representatives candidate of the party in the 2023 General election have called for his prosecution having allegedly established forgery allegation against him
The aggrieved candidates; LP governorship candidates for Ebonyi State and Plateau States, Eze Oko Splendour and chief Yohana Yilpwan Margif respectively and the House of Representatives Candidate for Edo Orhionmwon/ Uhunmwode Federal constituency Imasuen Paul Murphy said they have established the forgery allegations through Police investigation for which Abure was detained.

Each of the candidates at a joint press conference in Abuja on Wednesday narrated their ordeals stating how they were fraududlently substituted with their forged Signatures, documents, Withdrawal Letters submitted to INEC.
They highlighted others other illegal acts of Abure to include their Unlawful Substitution of LP Candidates submitted to INEC, Fake & Forged Sworn Affidavits of FCT High Court Receipts, Seals and Oaths.
They also accused Abure of collecting N30m as bribe from each of their alleged substitutes.

Comrade Splendour said he won the LP primary for Ebonyi state but what should have been a straight forward democratic process was marred by criminality, deceit, and manipulations orchestrated by the party’s national chairman.

“Despite numerous attempts by Abure to evade accountability, the diligent efforts of law enforcement officials led to his eventual apprehension.
“However, the investigation was not without its Significant challenges as the former Chairman consistently attempted to obstruct justice and evade arrest through corrupt and deceitful means after months of rigorous information gathering, cross examinations and forensic analysis, the police investigation conclusively determined that Mr. “Abure criminally forged my signature to perpetrate his illegal scheme.

“Throughout the investigation process, I cooperated fully with law enforcement authorities, providing them with all necessary evidence

to substantiate my claims of forgery and electoral malpractice.
“Despite
the complexities and obstacles encountered along the way, the FCID remained steadfast in their pursuit of justice, ultimately recommending the prosecution of Abure for his criminal actions.
“The case file has since been forwarded to Federal Ministry of Justice for charges to be instituted but up until now, there has been no movement on the matter.
“This has begun to agitate my mind as the perception is that the former Chairman can get away with brazen and unbridled criminality which has further emboidened him to become
even more reckless, believing that he is a “sacred cow”.

“Having received the case file and recommendations from the FCID, I am hereby appealing most passionately to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to ensure justice is served. The events described herein underscore the critical importance of upholding the rule of law and ensuring accountability within our democratic institutions.
“Those who seek to subvert the electoral process and undermine the integrity of our democracy must be held accountable for their actions.
“The prosecution of Abure is not only a matter of justice but also reaffirmation of our commitment to the principles of transparency,
fairness and accountability in governance.
“As the Chief law officer of the federation, a renowned staunch
advocate for the rule of law and a firm believer in the principles of
democracy, you have a sacred duty to uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

“The police recommendation for criminal charges against the Chairman and others, must be treated with the urgency and diligence it deserves.
“We must send a strong message that our democracy cannot flourish where internal party processes are corrupted and electoral integrity is recklessly subverted.
“I kindly implore you to use your highly esteemed office to ensure that charges are filed against Mr. Abure and others without further delay.

Chief Margif said, ”

“I passed through the primaries successfully, the primary was witnessed by INEC, I scaled through as the flag bearer, I was given certificate of return by Julius Abure to run the race but after one month while I was doing campaign there was a planned arrest by police, I was taken to police custody only to hear that there is another primary going on the 5th of August purporting that I have withdrawn from the race.

“The letter of withdrawal was forged which they submitted 5th August 2022, Knowing very well I was in detention on 5th How can I sign withdrawal letter while in detention.
According to Murphy, “I did not at any time wrote a withdrawal letter nor deposed to any affidavit to that effect, this further made my lawyer to equally write a letter to the Federal High Court Abuja to confirm the authenticity of the affidavit
“Again the Court replied that the affidavit was never deposed to in that court, which means that they forged my signature, Court affidavit, court revenue receipt and some other documents, which prompted my petition to IGP to investigate this criminal act by the national chairman, Secretary and some other LP officials that may be involved in this criminal

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Edo PDP chieftain tackles Bauchi Governor over claim of rancor free PDP primary

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Gov Bala Muhammed
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A prominent chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from Edo North, Joseph Ado, has called out the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Governor Bala Mohammed over claim that the PDP Congress held two weeks ago in Edo was rancour free

Ado who reacted through a statement issued on Tuesday said he finds it disheartening that Gov Bala Mohammed would make such a statement, considering that the Congress was previously condemned by the Senator Seriake Dickson panel of enquiry as flawed and one-sided.

“It is perplexing to Mr. Ado how Governor Bala Mohammed can overlook such glaring evidence and assert that there was no rancour during the Congress.

“In Mr. Ado’s view, a true leader ought to stand by the truth and not be partisan, even when trying to show solidarity with fellow governors. He firmly believes that the paramount concern should be the unity of the party. By disregarding the valid concerns raised by nine out of ten aspirants who participated in the Congress and vehemently condemned its flawed nature, Gov Bala Mohammed is failing in his role as a leader within the party.

Furthermore, Mr. Ado also expresses his doubts regarding Governor Bala Mohammed’s potential Presidential ambition. He expressed the believe that by supporting such a flawed Congress, Gov Mohammed has demonstrated his inability to gather the necessary support for his Presidential ambitions.
Ado firmly asserts that relying on the backing of Governor Godwin Obaseki will prove to be futile.
As a dedicated member of the PDP and a stakeholder in the Edo North region, Mr. Ado called on Governor Mohammed and other party leaders to prioritize the party’s unity above personal ambitions and affiliations.
“The PDP must foster an atmosphere that is fair, transparent, and inclusive in order to strengthen its position ahead of upcoming political challenges.

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Don’t allow growing anger, discontent to reach volatile point, Lamido tells Tinubu

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Sule Lamido
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A former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido has tasked the All Progressives Congress( APC) led administration of President Bola Tinubu not to allow the growing anger and discontent to reach point of violence

He asked the President to take preventive measures against the general discontent in the country arising from poverty, high cost of living and the insecurity currently bedevilling the nation to avert an impending disaster.

Thousands of citizens in Minna, the Niger State capital, had taken to the streets in protest against what they described as severe hunger and escalating cost of living in the country.

There were similar protests in Kano, Plateau and Kogi States.

Lamido who was a foreign Affairs minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his verified Facebook wall wrote using two analogies by two famous persons to capture the near disaster awaiting to happen if Nigerian government does not take an immediate preemptive measure

“The first of the two famous people is Fidel Castro. He narrated a story of a rich man on a holiday in his luxurious yatch. While indulging in the upper deck of yacht with all the comfort money can buy, his workers were groaning in the heat of the engine room. 

“The commotion coming from the engine room arising from the unbearable heat started shaking the yacht violently! It was a signal to the rich man and his friends in the upper deck to either respond to the commotion from the engine room or risk the yatch overturn.

“The other famous man is our very own Bishop Kukah. During the the era of our blessed PDP, there were cries of hardship arising from the increase of the pump price of fuel and the then serious insecurity from Boko Haram culminating in the abduction of Chibok girls in Yobe State. 

“There was general outcry all over the country from the then opposition APC, organizing protests  against the PDP government. I vividly recall when Buhari, Tinubu, Bisi and other big wigs of the APC poured out and filled the streets of Abuja chanting and condemning our government for allegedly failing to secure Nigeria and unleashing hardship on the citizens!

“That was when my good friend Bishop Kukah presented his paper allertig of the impending danger should the  government fail to take urgent action! 

“He gave as an analogy of the American coal mining in the 18th century by taking a canary in a cage into the mining pit. The canary according Bishop Kukah has a very weak respiratory system and can easily suffocate in low oxygen area. 

“Deep in the mining pit when the oxygen is getting exhausted, the canary will begin to shiver and the miner gets the message and quickly scrambles out of the pit. That was the miner’s ‘early warning system’!

“In Nigeria today, the hardship is so unbearable that tell tails of ‘early warnings’ are manifesting all over the country. In Lagos and Minna women are demonstrating over the high cost of living. 

‘Women in Plateau State are demonstrating on the cost of their favorite local brew called ‘burkutu’ now selling for 3 Naira a cup which they drink to drown their hardship and sorrow thereby getting temporary relief. Above all there is hunger everywhere and people are starving!
According to him, the two analogies quoted above and and the manifestation of the seeming tension arising from these local protests and demonstrations and the likely spread of these nation wide is enough to make the government take urgent action!

“It must not be allowed to reach a combustion point.”

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