The Plateau State House of Assembly is experiencing Deadlock due to the Supreme Court’s ruling, which affirmed Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s election. This is causing instability throughout the state.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) last week demanded that Rt. Hon. Gabriel Dawan, the Speaker of the Plateau House of Assembly, swear in the 16 members of the party who had been declared legitimately elected by the Court of Appeal the previous year.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Felix Morka, addressed media in Abuja, stating that the speaker was acting in a “violently contemptuous of the authority of the Court of Appeal, the highest court for the determination of election petition matters as it concerns the House of Assembly” by refusing to swear in the 16 new members.

On December 24, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) granted Certificates of Return to the 16 members who had been dismissed from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.

The APC issued its warning two weeks after 16 dismissed members who had been elected on the PDP platform in the state assembly raised a stir by attempting to carry out their threat to resume legislative duties.

The 16 lawmakers who were fired had warned their colleagues on the APC platform not to resume their positions while speaking to journalists in Jos, the state capital. They had claimed to be the legitimate members of the state parliament, having been elected by the state’s citizens.

They highlighted the ruling of the Supreme Court, which overturned the Court of Appeal’s ruling and restored Governor Caleb Mutfwang to his rightful position as the state’s legitimately elected leader.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling, overturned by the Supreme Court, resulted in the dismissal of 16 legislators and six National Assembly members.

However, a group of police officers and other security personnel had commandeered the Government House property and were preventing the 16 fired legislators from entering the assembly chambers when they arrived at the assembly complex the following day.

Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Speaker of the State Assembly Rt. Hon. Gabriel Dewan told the lawmakers who had been fired to follow the law, citing a court order he had with him that required him to uphold the status quo.

Remember how the Supreme Court bemoaned that the appellate court’s decision had wronged numerous people when it overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision to remove Governor Mutfwang?

The state and federal parliamentarians who were also dismissed by the Appeal Court because they were not given the opportunity to appeal the rulings like Mutfwang did were the ones who felt the injustice the most.

Prior to the ruling by the Appeal Court, the 24-member legislature was made up of 16 members from the PDP, 7 members from the APC, and 1 member from the Young Progressive Party (YPP). However, following the ruling that removed all PDP members and awarded the APC their seats, the APC now has 23 members and one YPP member.

However, the Speaker, a PDP member, resigned right away before the PDP parliamentarians were dismissed by the court. Dewan, the lone YPP member in the assembly, was then chosen Speaker with the backing of the PDP members and sworn in right away.

Just before the PDP members were fired, Dewan abruptly called for an indefinite suspension of plenary. He has now declined to call another meeting of the assembly, citing ongoing renovations at the building as his justification.

While delivering its ruling, the Supreme Court expressed regret that some justices could still remove an election winner based only on the political party’s primaries, nomination, or sponsorship, despite the court’s repeated rulings that tribunals and courts lacked the authority to meddle in internal party matters.

Because the primary election problem that resulted in Mutfwang was outside the purview of both the tribunal and the Appeal Court, the Apex Court overturned the appellate court’s ruling on the grounds of perversity.

After reading the ruling, Justice Emmanuel Agim stated that the sponsorship dispute had long since passed because the law requires anyone contesting a candidate’s nomination or sponsorship to institute the legal action within 14 days from which such illegality was said to have occurred.

The sitting judge, Justice John Okoro, bemoaned that “a lot of people have suffered” as a result of the appellate court’s incorrect rulings, which resulted in the dismissal of multiple legislators who had won elections on the PDP platform. It is likely that he was referring to members from the Plateau.

In addition, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju chastised the appellate court for delving into the nomination and sponsorship debate in spite of multiple rulings from the supreme court that hold that a political party cannot contest another party’s primary election.

Nigerians, particularly the electorate from Plateau State, have been incensed and frustrated since the rulings of the Supreme Court.

While some have demanded the complete removal of the Court of Appeal panel that heard the cases, others have claimed that Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, the court’s president, was improperly swayed by political figures to result in the injustice.

They said that she paid her kinsman, Senator Simon Lalong, who was said to have favored her, with the rulings.

They emphasized the fact that Justice Dongban-Mensem only permitted a single panel to hear appeals in Plateau State, but many states had two panels sitting to hear appeals on national and state assemblies. This made it possible for the panel’s justices to effectively fire every PDP lawmaker in the state.

Speaking on the matter, senior attorney Chidi Odinkalu stated that Justice Dongban-Mensem’s daughter, Buetanaan Mandy Dongban-Bassi, was appointed by Mr. Lalong to the position of judge of the Plateau State High Court. She further mentioned that her mother was a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC) panel that approved her appointment. “Paul, Buetnaan’s husband and Justice Dongban-Mensem’s son-in-law, was sent to the Court of Appeal by the same NJC two years later, in September 2023.”

Politicians and other interested parties who have been wronged have urged the legislators who will be impacted to petition the NJC to order the Court of Appeal to reconsider the rulings.

The APC candidates who presently hold the Certificates of Return are putting increasing pressure on the Speaker of the Assembly to call a special session and swear them in immediately as a result of the legal dilemma.

They think that if they wait any longer to be sworn in, the growing calls for the NJC to reconsider the rulings of the Appeal Court will work against them.

However, Dewan had maintained that the 16 APC lawmakers would not be acknowledged prior to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of its ruling, which held that the Appeal Court’s actions and decision were flawed and an abuse of legal procedures. He made it clear that, of the 24 parliamentarians, only eight would receive his recognition.

The miscarriage of justice against the PDP lawmakers must be corrected if harmony is to return to the state parliament, particularly in light of the now-clear evidence that the rulings that dismissed them were compromised.


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