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PLATEAU: Constituents Begin Collating Signatures To Recall Senator Simon Lalong

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Even though the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the election of numerous state governors just came and went, the consequences still exist across the nation.

The affirmation of Mr. Caleb Mutfwang as the elected governor of Plateau State is particularly noteworthy. The Jos Governorship Election Petition Tribunal upheld Mutfwang’s election, but the Court of Appeal (CA) nullified his victory.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary election was the decisive factor in the CA’s decision to remove Mutfwang and members of the National Assembly and Plateau State House of Assembly.

It’s interesting to note that Mutfwang was declared the legitimate governor of Plateau State by the Supreme Court. The supreme court harshly criticized the CA judges for undermining the administration of justice and even interfering in a pre-election subject over which they had no jurisdiction. It further stated that there was sufficient proof the appellant had not broken any court orders.

One guy who was directly impacted by the miscarriage of justice committed by the CA and is delighted with the Supreme Court’s ruling is Senator Napoleon Bali, who served as Plateau South’s representative from July to October 2023 until the CA fired him.

Hope is restored for former senators Napoleon Bali and Simon Mwadkwon, members of the House of Representatives, and sixteen members of the Plateau State House of Assembly who were dismissed by the CA for similar reasons, following the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the election of Governor Mutfwang of the PDP, who had been dismissed for concerns regarding his nomination.

Speaking with Sunday Times about the matter, Senator Napoleon Bali stated that their legal team is considering a number of options, such as recalling those elected under the CA judgment or going back to court to look into any avenue to make up for the injustice done to them. Alternatively, they could choose to live with the decision for the next three years.

Despite not having visited his Plateau South senatorial seat recently, Bali claimed to have reliable information that residents are gathering signatures to recall Senator Simon Bako Lalong, the former Minister of Labor and Employment.

In addition to serving as the governor of Plateau State from 2015 to 2023, Lalong also ran for the senate seat in Plateau South on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), but he was soundly defeated by PDP candidate Bali. He oversaw Tinubu’s Presidential Campaign Organization as its Director General.

Prior to the CA dismissing Napoleon Bali and recognizing Lalong as the lawfully elected senator for Plateau South, President Bola Tinubu named Lalong as the Minister of Labor and Employment. The 2023 December 20 was his sworn in day as a senator.

However, available information shows that the days of Lalong in the Senate may be numbered as plans are in advanced stage by his constituents in Plateau South to recall him.

Senator Napoleon Bali said defeated former governor Lalong, the person the CA gave judgment, with over 57,000 votes because he is not popular.

The Plateau people gave him mandate for 8 years. Let him tell the people what he did. I defeated him even in his place, Ajikamai, ward and local government. So, how would such a person stand on the floor of the red chamber and say I am Senator Simon Bako Lalong representing the good people of Plateau South? Representing who, one local government? He won only Wase out of the 6 local governments.

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I’m going into specifics now. I defeated him in Langtan North, Langtan South, Mikang, his own local government, Shendam and Qua’anpan local governments squarely.

What the people of Plateau South senatorial district are saying ii that they will not allow him. I don’t know what they want to do, but I was told reliably that people are already gathering signatures that they must recall him. This time around we are going to test INEC and the judiciary that installed him again because that is the option we are sure of.

“Like I said, our lawyers are making all efforts to see whether there is a window. I’m not a lawyer; I don’t know how they are going to do it, but the one I’m very sure is that all those the CA collected our mandates wrongfully as concluded by the justices of the Supreme Court, we are definitely going to recall them. When? I will not tell you because it will just come to them as a rude shock.

For the specific, I can tell you that in Plateau South, I know that they have gathered over 300,000 signatures to recall Lalong already. That is already in the public domain. He is aware, his party the APC is aware. By the time we get the required signature, i.e. 50 per cent of the total registered voters, we have the INEC current register; I will not tell you because we keep that one close to our chest.

As soon as we get the 50 per cent, we are going to write a petition and our lawyers will follow up from there to tell INEC to verify. Once that is done, INEC will have no option but to conduct a referendum and we take it up from there.

It will be recalled that Senator Napoleon Bali represented Plateau South from June 2023 to October 2023 before the Court of Appeal sacked him, his colleague from Plateau North, Senator Simon Mwadkwon and 16 members of the Plateau State House of Assembly elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP].

However, with the judgment of the Supreme Court, which reinstated the Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, who was initially sacked by the same Court of Appeal on the same ground that was used to sack the legislators, hope has risen for the legislators whose sack was seriously condemned by the apex court as illegal.

In a telephone interview, Senator Bali felt satisfied with the Supreme Court judgment he said there is a difference between the law and the people interpreting it.

“The issues that they used to invalidate my election, we knew quite well, even if you are not a lawyer, you should predict that, if you must tell the truth, which is justice, we anticipated it. As a lay man we thought that the Supreme Court would toe the line of the tribunal, [my own panel] and the Court of Appeal.

He said there were three panels in Plateau State, two of the panels looked at the law and then looked at the Supreme Court judgments in the past as regards nomination, sponsorship and qualification. The Supreme Court has ruled many times that is the internal affair of any political party registered in Nigeria. All these our lawyers canvassed and two out of the three panels agreed with that position and that was why they ruled in favour of the PDP, but for whatever reason, panel one headed by Justice Tukur felt otherwise. They said it was both pre-election and post-election. They said it was a post-election because we disobeyed a court order, so, in that case I cannot be an internal affair of the party.

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“Our lawyers proved to the tribunal that we did not disobey court order. Justice Gyang said we should do a repeat congress which we did. I retired as Air Vice Marshall in the Nigerian Air Force and declared my interest to run for senate in August 2021 and that repeated congress took place on September 25, 2021. That was my first task for the PDP because I brought all the delegates from the southern senatorial zone of Plateau State.

Our lawyers presented the fact that this repeated congress was done. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Department of State Service (DSS) reported that the congress was done, yet the tribunal judges of only panel one led by Justice Tukur said no, that even the ‘purported’ congress only five out of 17 local governments took part. That was a big lie. What happened was that 12 LGAs, 5 of their Excos had issues in the court. 5 times 12 is 60.

But for whatever reason, the justices ignored it and said 12 LGAs did not take part. It’s a big lie; the facts are there to investigate. What happened was that because of the way the congresses were conducted, both the ward and LG, some people felt aggrieved along the line, others withdrew their cases and it was settled politically, but as ata the time we held the repeated congresses in obedience to Justice Gyang Court Order, 12 LGs were having issues with only 5 Excos (5 in each LG).

In PDP we have 18 Exco members in each LG, but for whatever reason he chairman, vice chairman, secretary, women and youth leader had cases in court. PDP national Exco that supervised the congress, in its wisdom, excluded these 60 people. But where the tribunal told a lie to Nigerians, discrediting the congresses, was that 12 LGs did not participate. It’s not so; it’s only the Excos of the 12 LGs. So, we saw this thing coming.

“For whatever reason, the Appeal Court now toed the line of panel one led by Justice Tukur. Th ough I’m not a lawyer, I knew that the Appeal Court did not get the truth. They were misled. Our lawyers tried their best to say no .. the issue of congress was even out their jurisdiction, but they said they will entertain it.

“We told the Appeal Court that the 17 LGs took part in the re-un congresses, but the court refused to accept it. The panel was lucky that they played the video clip in addition to INEC report at the tribunal stage and that was why Justice Williams, I think a lady accepted that we complied. But the Court of Appeal said no, they toed the line of panel one led by Justice Tukur. We told the Appeal Court that 17 LGs participated in the re-run congresses, only the Excos of 12 did not, but CA refused to accept all our evidence.

“We know that the National and State Assembly, the final court was the CA. Our lead legal counsel, Barrister Damian Dodo (SAN) urged the CA to look at the issue well because if you said it was post-election we obeyed, you discredited the congresses and called it purported, it is not true.

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The man who won has about 1,500 votes and the man who contested with him, Bitrus Kaje, who canvassed for us to go into the repeated congress got 300 votes. The entire congress delegates were supposed to be 2,500 plus. Meanwhile, about 2,000 cast their votes including Bitrus Kaje and he congratulated the winner, Chris Afem, yet the CA said no.

“My own was so pathetic and annoying. I, Senator, AVM (rtd) Napoleon Bali; at the CA Justice Abang said I contested as an independent candidate. I wish Abang was not even a lawyer or he contested election to see how annoying that can be. Other justices said you didn’t qualify, which is the normal legal term, I bought a form, sponsored by PDP and then a justice of CA, only him in his judgment said I contested 2023 election as independent candidate and that was why the was annulling my election because our laws do not recognize independent candidate. You see that my lord, with due respect erred completely because I bought form under PDP. It’s like instead of beating somebody on the buttock, you beat him on the face and eyes to blind him. Some of us thought, may be the Supreme Court was going to do the same thing. So we went for the hearing and adoption of briefs and behold the 5 justices came very hard on Justice Tukur panel, the tribunal and the CA. it was a clear ignoring clear evidence in order to perverse justice. We don’t know why they did that. That is why Justice “Okoro of the Supreme Court said his anger is that many people have suffered, including myself, as a result of this wrong judgment/ justice Agim, who read the lead judgment said, first of all the tribunal and the CA lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case and even if they decided to entertain the case, that we complied with the court order with available evidence from INEC, DSS. So, they came very hard on them.

“That has brought back my confidence in the judiciary because the justices of the Supreme Court decided to follow the law, the 2022 Electoral Act and the Constitution. Of course, I’m very happy, but the problem is that some of us have been cheated. The justices of the CA and the panel of Justices Tukur should watch, one day they will account to God.”

Bali expressed his happiness with the Supreme Court judgment and prayed that “they should continue like that”. He is also happy with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) “for giving a free hand”, President Bola Tinubu “for allowing the judiciary to its work” and the justices of the Supreme Court, asking God to bless them for promoting “justice”.

According to him, “justice promotes patriotism”, because he was feeling bad about this country, but since that judgment by the apex court, he has become more patriotic, adding “even when people are not looking at me, I try to do the right thing to ensure Nigeria becomes a better place”.


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