The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday alleged that Plateau governor Simon Lalong’s “sudden” declaration of Friday, Oct. 8, as a public holiday ahead of Saturday local government polls, was to thwart the course of justice.
It particularly declared that the public holiday was targeted at stopping the hearing of its appeal, at the Jos Appeal Court, against the judgement of a High Court barring it (PDP) from participating in the election.
Mr Edward Pwajok (SAN), Counsel to PDP, stated the party’s position in a telephone interview with newsmen in Mangu, on Thursday.
PDP had, on Sept. 29, lost a case it filed against the Plateau State Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), challenging the Party’s exclusion from the Oct. polls.
Justice Ishaku Kunda of a Jos High Court, in his judgement, upheld PLASIEC’s decision to bar the PDP from participating in the polls.
Dissatisfied, the party went to the appellate court which fixed Oct. 8 for the hearing of the case.
The PDP, which had urged its members to remain calm, was anxiously waiting for the appellate court on Friday when Lalong declared the day a public holiday, knocking off any sitting on the fixed date.
He had claimed, in a broadcast, that the aim was to allow civil servants to travel to their communities to vote.
But Pwajok told NAN that “the whole idea of the public holiday is to stop the Court of Appeal from sitting to hear the motion of our appeal against the judgement given by the lower Court in favour of PLASIEC.”
“We understand the game being played out, but all the same, we shall go to the Appellate Court tomorrow for our case. If the court doesn’t open, we know what to say. If it sits, then fine.
“I won’t say more until tomorrow, because I will be in court by 9.00 a.m. tomorrow. If it sits, fine, we will proceed, but if the contrary, we know what to say,” Pwajok declared.
But Chief Garba Pwul, Counsel to PLASIEC, described Lalong’s declaration of Friday as a public holiday for the election as “very normal”.
“It is the right step taken for a cogent reason.
“I am surprised that PDP is giving the whole thing a colouration. After all, this is not the first time government is declaring a public holiday in respect of elections.
“Lalong, after all, is not a party to the appeal case. His party, the APC, is not. It is only PLSIEC that is a party to the case.
“We (PLASIEC) are in receipt of the hearing notice of their (PDP’s) motion scheduled to be heard tomorrow, Friday, but with the situation at hand, it can’t be possible till after the election.
“In fact, former President Olusegun Obasanjo did something similar in 2007 when he declared a public holiday on the day a judgement was to be given on then Plateau governor Joshua Dariye’s impeachment case.
“On that Friday (judgement day), the Supreme Court couldn’t sit until after one month, when elections had been conducted.
“So, nobody should impute improper motive to what is clearly a convenient thing to do by a reasonable and caring Governor.
“In fact, I will do the same when I become Governor because one has to take into consideration the plight of every sector of governance of the state,” he said.
Pwul argued that the civil servants deserved to be given the chance and opportunity to travel to their respective communities in order to take part in the elections.
Mr Dan Manjang, the information commissioner, who also spoke with NAN, dismissed allegations of ulterior motives behind the government’s declaration of Friday, Oct. 8, as a public holiday on the eve of the council election.
“Governor Lalong’s declaration has nothing to do with PDP’s case against PLASIEC.
“It is purely a respite to the civil servants to enable them to participate in the local council elections, period,” Manjang explained.