The Plateau State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has described the action of Governor, Barrister Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau, over the recent suspension of the 17 local government chairmen and Councillors by the members of the Plateau State House of Assembly, as illegal, recklessness, legislative impudence irrational and smack of due process and the constitution of the Federal Republic.
Hon Sylvanus Namang made the disclosure in a press conference held at the party’s Secretariat, Kalwa House, Yakubu Gowon Way, Jos yesterday.
Hon. Namang who described the suspension exercise as sham illegally carried out by an imposter speaker, Abok Ayuba, who was brought through the backdoor having vacated his seat in October 2021.
Furthermore, Hon. Namang added that the suspension which the victims are already in court was premeditation and well calculated mischief of the double faceted Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He said, “Our reading of the entire scenario readily points to the fact that some political witch-hunt and mischief have been contemplated and perfected to impugn the integrity of the Local Government Council Chairmen and Councillors who were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and whose tenure is yet to elapse until October 2024; otherwise, how else can we interpret the rationale behind the unconscionable violation of due process in the actions of the Executive Governor and a section of the Plateau State House of Assembly?
“Our reservation about the whole saga is how the so-called suspension of the Council Chairmen by the House of Assembly based on a faceless petitioner, was quickly followed up, without investigation, with approval by the Executive Governor who ought, as a lawyer, to know that such action is a direct affront on principle of fair-hearing!
“Nevertheless, in this democratic clime, due process of law should be followed so as not to put our constitutional democracy in avoidable danger and read as follows:
TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) PLATEAU STATE CHAPTER AGAINST THE SUSPENSION OF DULY-ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS IN PLATEAU STATE
Gentlemen of the press, we have invited you, the fourth estate of the realm and genuine partners in the nurturing of the growth and health of our democracy to address you on a vexatious issue bordering on the faulty steps embarked upon by the Peoples Democratic Government in Plateau State barely two days after its assumption of power in our dear state.
As a responsible opposition party in the state, are going to hold the PDP, especially the governor, His Excellency Barrister Caleb Mannasseh Mutfwang accountable for critical decisions of his administration and keep his pronouncements and actions under scrutiny for the good of our dear state which all of us are stakeholders.
It is against this background that the APC watched and listened to his inaugural speech at the Jos Rwang Pam Township Stadium with wrap attention and keen interest.
Our assessment of his address is that it was basically a puritanical sermon and grandstanding by a leader whose perception of the real issues of governance is that of one who apparently has the genuine interest of the state at heart.
The APC in the state, however, never swallowed the Governor’s address hook, line and sinker knowing the PDP’s notoriety for disobedience of even its own laws and the mindless infractions and violation of the electoral law and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an attitude which has pitched it at war with itself but which they always effortlessly try to blame the APC for their woes.
For instance, the governor stated during his inaugural address that he was going to operate an all inclusive government and that the state would be run on the basis of fairness to all and he would respect the rule of law.
We treated these statements with cautious optimism knowing full well that the hawks and hungry elements in the party would tighten his hands to do otherwise.
We were proved right as on Thursday the 1st of June 2023, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, Plateau State Chapter, as well as the teeming citizens of the state were confronted with a Press Statement from the Executive Governor’s Office purportedly approving the suspension of the duly-elected 17 Local Government Chairmen in the state.
The statement claimed amongst others, that the Executive Governor was acting on a “resolution” of the Plateau State House of Assembly directing him to do so.
It is against this background that we are constrained to address this Press Conference to condemn in its totality the controversial issues involved in the purported action of both the Governor and the Plateau State House of Assembly which smack of executive recklessness and legislative impudence if not impunity against established legal, constitutional and legislative procedures.
The local goverments are established by law and due process ought to be followed in tempering with their structures and operations.
For all intents and purposes, the actions of the House of Assembly presided over by a so- called Speaker, Ayuba Nuhu Abok, whose seat had since October 2021 been declared vacant but who was brought back through the back door under a clearly disputed High Court judgment which has been appealed against and the Governor are premeditated and a clear vendetta which is capable of not only generating bad blood and creating a high-level political instability in the state which is an avoidable step by the less than one week administrationin the state.
It is premeditated because it is imperative to note that the Chairman of the Plateau State House of Assembly Committee on Local Government Affairs was not consulted by the so – called leadership of the House of Assembly to ascertain whether the Local Government Chairmen had complied with the directive to them or not before the rushed decision.
We are aware that the Chairmen have filed a motion for interlocutory injunction to restrain the governor from suspending or truncating the tenure of the Local Government Chairmen and their Legislative Arms.
The APC aligns itself with their patriotic steps given the prevailing fragile peace in the State. According to them, they have no force of brute power but they rely on the force of the law which they believe will prevail.
It is surprising if not shocking as well as an irony that in 2015, the same Governor Caaleb Mutfwang then, as Local Government Chairman with his newly sworn – in Attorney General, Barrister Philemon Daffi as his lawyer, described the suspension or dissolution of duly-elected Local Government Councils by a Governor or the House of Assembly as an aberration and gross abuse of the Constitution. In fact there was no unprintable adjective they didn’t apply in condemning the then Governor’s action.
If we may ask, what has happened between then and now if not vindictiveness?
This misguided and ill-timed step has the potency of putting the governance machinery in the State in a reverse gear.
We are afraid that Plateau State, in spite of earlier pretentious promises of good governance and government of unity by the governor is creeping back into an era despondency and needless political upheaval.
Without sounding immodest, the breakneck speed and desperation with which Governor Caleb Mutfwang carried out the action betrays his improper understanding of governance process much more for a new Government that has just come on board and has not adequately appraised the socio- economic, political and developmental situations on ground.
Furthermore, our reading of the entire scenario readily points to the fact that some political witch-hunt and mischief have been contemplated and perfected to impugn the integrity of the Local Government Council Chairmen who were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and whose tenure is yet to elapse until October 2024.
Otherwise, how else can we interpret the rationale behind the unconscionable violation of due process in the actions of the Executive Governor and a section of the Plateau State House of Assembly?
Our reservation about the whole saga is how the so-called suspension of the Council Chairmen by the House of Assembly based on a faceless petitioner, was quickly followed up, without investigation, with approval by the Executive Governor who ought, as a lawyer, to know that such action is a direct affront on principle of fair-hearing!
Nevertheless, in this democratic clime, due process of law should be followed so as not to put our constitutional democracy in avoidable danger.
We are restating this considering the fact that there is no known law in our land which supports such arbitrariness.
The Executive Governor and the Plateau State House of Assembly cannot ignore the fact that there is already a Supreme Court decision against any suspension or dissolution of duly-elected Local Government Councils.
The existence of Local Government Councils is even a Constitutional matter in line with Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which is sacrosanct.
It is needless to state here that Local Government Councils in Plateau State have been guaranteed autonomy as a third tier of Government.
What is even more worrisome is the fact that the election of these Local Government officials were invariably affirmed through the 23rd May 2023 Supreme Court decision, which the Governor and other elected PDP members were in attendance, that refused the relisting of the PDP’s matter in PDP Vs. PLASIEC case, which had been favoured by concurrent judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal respectively.
It is against this background and many more that the APC in the state unequivocally calls for the immediate reinstatement of the elected Local Government Chairmen in the 17 Local governments of the state.
The reasons stated for their suspension under whatever guise is absolutely not tenable as it is nothing but the perpetuation of illegality.
If the pressure or whatever reasons for the unprovoked action by the governor are coming from the locusts who want to feast on the finances of these Local Governments, such should not be at the expense of the larger interest of the state.
The governor should be a man of himself and his words and no impression ought to be created that he is being teleguided to embark oný illegaliies and impunity which the past PDP in the state was disrepute for.