In a bid to address what they deem “disturbing issues” surrounding recent conflicting judgments delivered by the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos, Plateau State, the Forum of Former Youth Leaders (Veterans) in Plateau State convened a world press conference
Gathered at the Azi Nyako Youth Centre on September 19, 2023, veterans and concerned citizens voiced their worries and concerns over the recent rulings by Justice M.B. Tukur that overturned previous judgments related to Plateau State senatorial and House of Representatives elections.
The tribunal had been delivering judgments over the past three weeks, with the conflicting judgments for the representatives of the state at the National Assembly causing significant concern among the veterans.
The crux of the issue lies in the question of the political structure, on which aggrieved petitioners based their suits against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The earlier judgment, pronounced by Justice William Rotimi and his colleagues, upheld the validity of the PDP’s structure. According to the veterans, this ruling was in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act.
In the cases between Sen. Simon Mwadkon Vs others, Hon. Musa A. Agah Vs others, and Hon. Isaac Kwallu Vs others, the tribunal ruled that the nomination and sponsorship of candidates for elections were the sole duty of the party and that contesting such nominations should be limited to party members through a Federal High Court.
The veterans expressed support for these rulings, considering them in compliance with relevant laws and a definitive resolution of the structure and nomination of candidates issue.
However, Justice M.B. Tukur’s subsequent contradictory judgments, delivered on September 11, 2023, overturned the victories of several candidates, including Hon. Peter Gyendeng, Hon. Musa Bagos, and Hon. Beni Lar, along with Sen. Napoleon Bali of Plateau South Senatorial District, on the same grounds as the earlier judgments.
The veterans voiced their concern, asserting that Justice Tukur’s decision to contradict his colleagues who had upheld the elections could sow discord and chaos in the state.
“While we respect the sanctity of the Nigerian Judiciary, we are perturbed about this recent judicial debacle that is capable of setting the state in needless strife. This development is awfully troubling to us,” they stated.
The press conference also emphasized Plateau State’s history of political consensus, highlighting the unity in choosing its leaders. In the 2023 general elections, Plateau State overwhelmingly returned PDP to power, securing victories in the governorship, senatorial, and House of Assembly elections.
The veterans stressed that the press conference represented the choice and rights of the majority of Plateau citizens and called for respect for the people’s choice. They argued that Justice Tukur had erred in law by intervening in matters outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal and requested a review of his judgment.
They also called for the cases involving the election of PDP members that are still pending in the tribunal to be upheld and urged the National Judicial Council and law enforcement agencies to investigate any potential motivations behind the controversial judgments.
In conclusion, the veterans expressed their belief in the neutrality of the judiciary and urged lawyers to attend retreats to enhance their understanding of the law. They reiterated their confidence in the Nigerian judiciary as the last hope of the common man and called for justice to prevail.