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PLHA Impasse: 16 Members Elect Petition Tinubu And Mutfwang, Bemoan Strangulation Of Democracy By Rt Hon Gabriel Dewan, Call For Their Immediate Inauguration

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Concerned by the perpetual disregard to the Court of Appeal judgement and desperate political manipulation by Rt Hon Gabriel K. Dewan, Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly to murder democracy on the Plateau by refusing to inaugurate them, four months after their victories were confirmed by the Court of Appeal – the highest court in the land saddled with the responsibility to determine State and National Assembly election matters, the 16 State House of Assembly members elect have petitioned President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang of Plateau State.

In a World Press Conference on Tuesday, 26 March, 2024, in the nation’s capital, the 16 members elect urged President Tinubu and Governor Mutfwang to order Rt Hon Gabriel K. Dewan to immediately inaugurate them without any further delay.

Read the full text of the press conference below:

BEING A TEXT OF THE WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE 16 LEGITIMATE AND UNINAUGURATED MEMBERS OF THE PLATEAU STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.

THE IMMOLATION OF DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW ON THE PLATEAU: A CALL FOR ACTION!

RE: REFUSAL TO INAUGURATE THE 16 LEGITIMATE MEMBERS OF THE PLATEAU STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

Tuesday 26th March, 2024

Good morning distinguished colleagues, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen!

1. Today, we are compelled to address the press and the world on an issue of national and international significance to draw attention to the continued and unabated acts of recklessness, arbitrariness, and impunity playing out in Plateau State by the collective conspiracy of stakeholders leading to the refusal of the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly to inaugurate the 16 legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly.

2. May we start by warmly congratulating The Executive Governor of Plateau State, HE Barr. Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang on his victory at the Supreme Court of Nigeria affirming him as the duly elected Governor of Plateau State. We believe that all powers belong to God and He gives it to whom he desires at his own time. It is our sincere conviction that it was God that chose him at His own time. Because we are believers, we join the millions of Plateau citizens to commit our unalloyed support to you in driving the Plateau dream to its logical destination without let or hindrance.

3. May we also take the liberty of this opportunity to convey our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Plateau State Government and the families of all those who lost their lives and properties during the recent cowardly attacks in Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Pankshin South, Mikang, Langtang and other parts of the state. Our hearts and sincere prayers are with them. May their souls and those of all the faithfuls departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

4. Co-extensive to the foregoing, we commend the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu GCFR, and the Security Chiefs for the roles they have been playing in securing the lives and properties of our people. We are even more pleased by the recent announcement of the federal government for the establishment of a military base in Bokkos, Bokkos LGC of Plateau State as a preemptive and sustainable measure to curb the incessant and unprovoked attacks on our people. This is a reassuring step in the right direction. 

5. In November 2023, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja variously handed down judgments in favour of the 16 of us in the appeals emanating from judgments of the State and National Assembly Tribunal sitting in Jos, Plateau State. Shortly thereafter, we were presented our Certificates of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Jos on the 23rd day of December, 2023.

6. It must be placed on record that a few weeks previously, the same Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had entered judgments in favour of 4 members of the House of Representatives and indeed the Senator representing Plateau Southern and thereafter, Plateau Central Senatorial Zones. These members of the House of Representatives and Senators have since been sworn in and taken their oaths of office to represent and serve the people of their respective constituencies at the National Assembly.

15 APC Members elect with the APC National Chairman without Hon Daniel, Nanbol Listick of the LP

7. It would also be recalled further that the Court of Appeal had previously ordered a re-run to take place for the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Plateau Northern Senatorial Zone. The re-run has since taken place with winners emerging and these representatives have also taken their oaths of office in their respective chambers of the National Assembly and discharging their lawful constitutional duties on behalf of their constituents.

8. The foregoing inaugurated representatives, including His Excellency the Executive Governor of Plateau State, occupy office today predicated on the judgments of our respective courts without let or hindrance.

9. It has been about four (4) months since our respective judgments and about three (3) months since the collection of our Certificates of Return. Section 94(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) has amply made provisions for the swearing-in of members of the state House of Assembly having met the twin requirements of the presentation of their Certificates of Return and the evidence of the Declaration of assets and liabilities to the Code of Conduct Bureau in the manner prescribed.

10. The 16 of us legitimate members whom the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly has refused to inaugurate constitute the 2/3 majority of the 24-man state Plateau State House of Assembly. One wonders how the house operates with its 2/3 majority members outside the spectrum. This is no doubt a complete and laughable aberration of the rule of law and the world stands by and is watching this reprehensible repression of our democracy!

11. The appalling situation described above has validated with abhorrence and resistance the obscure practice of the principle of political gerrymandering where a few rules the majority in a democracy. This is not known to the annals of our democracy and must be fought with every means available. By this singular act, the speaker has denied us the legitimate 16 members the discharge of our constitutional legislative and oversight duties as contained in sections 100 and 109 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). This unacceptable situation has annihilated lots of our people from governance without a voice. This is clearly a violation of the agelong tenets of democracy and must be resisted with everything we have.

12. During the period under review, different unsuccessful legal and combat pallets have been thrown at us by persons who claim to be lovers of democracy to transgress the sacred provisions of section 246(3) of the 1999 Constitution which declared that the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of the State and National Assembly petitions appeal SHALL BE FINAL

13. There is no question that the PDP and their proteges have made preponderant unsuccessful efforts to subvert the course of democracy and the rule of law by the countless nebulous court cases that were instituted to challenge the distilled outcome of our cases in the court of appeal under the erroneous perception that the Court of Appeal is subordinate to the Supreme Court in cases relating to State and National Assembly petitions.

14. The most recent of the above drama is the unprecedented, curious, and obscure application made by the PDP to the Court of Appeal praying it to set aside its final judgment in our cases respectively. In an expected judgment of the Court of Appeal to this spurious application, it dismissed the application having found no merit in it and imposed a punitive and exemplary fine of a cumulative N128 million (One Hundred and Twenty-Eight Million Naira) only on the counsel that instituted the action.

15. Let it be stated categorically that as it stands today, there is no court order, injunction, or directive from any court of law in Nigeria restraining the speaker from inaugurating the 16 of us legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly contrary to the propaganda promoted by the speaker and the enemies of our democracy in the media as their continued excuse.

16. The paradox of this charade is the double standards that these so-called democrats exhibit in accepting court decisions only if they favour them. When these decisions that emanate from the same court are against them, then the same court or its decisions are viewed as perverse. This is self-serving and dishonest.

17. Pursuant to the foregoing skewed philosophy, we have observed the sad, uncultured, and rather uncharacteristic attacks in the media on the personalities of our refined and respected Justices who dispense justice by how best they know the law.  The pernicious confusion occasioned by these ‘holier than thou’ persons has portrayed our state in a very despicable and condemnable light in civilized circles. A state that is known for its deep sense of civility, hospitality, and decorum has now been turned into disrepute by persons who don’t know any better. They continue these attacks on our distinguished and respected Justices including the brazen violation of our constitution in the name of ‘Politics’ without knowing the historic disrepute and infamy they put our state to. This is a great disservice to the spirit of our forefather and progenators.

18. We, the 16 legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly, have observed with deep concern that there is a partisan conspiracy between the Executive Governor of Plateau State, the Speaker, the PDP, and their agents to subvert the course of justice and the rule of law in Plateau State. They have employed their stooges to either cause disaffection through sponsored protests, the media, and the courts of law, or the brazen and open threats to proceed and continue in disobedience of judgments that are viewed in all civilized parlance as final. The irony of life is that these agents forget that ‘what comes around goes around’ and soon their sincerity of purpose shall be put to test.

19. A community reading of sections 104 and 109(1)(f) is to the effect that every state House of Assembly shall sit for a period of not less than 181 days in a year and that a member shall vacate his seat if, without cause, he absents himself/herself from the sitting of the house for an aggregate period amounting to more than 1/3 (Being 60 days) during which the house meets in a year. The question that begs for answers therefore is whether the Plateau State House of Assembly is bound by the constitution at all and if so, how does it plan to meet these requirements of the law having been permanently on recess for more than 5 months now.

20. Our attention was recently drawn to a purported sitting of the existing 8 members of the Plateau State House of Assembly under an unknown, unconstitutional, and cosmetic guise. The House was purported to have sat without the principal officers or any committee of the house in place as required by the House Rules, making laws that are skewed ab initio. This kind of drama cannot be expected to emanate from Plateau State, betraying the complicity and conspiracy of silence on the part of our elders, leaders, and democracy gatekeepers.

21. Taking the foregoing further, one wonders if the system of government practiced in Plateau State is autocratic or aristocratic in complete defiance and violation of the provisions of our constitution and the refined tenets of our democracy. The state is currently running without one of its arms of government (The legislature) in derogation of the refined principles of separation of powers enshrined in our constitution and lovers of democracy and our gatekeepers are watching on the stands with indifference.

22. Some of the double standard pundits argue is that they await the outcome of their random and vile attempts at challenging the decisions of the Court of Appeal as their reason for not inaugurating us when it is common knowledge that they retained and celebrated the sacked PDP legislators in office while we were awaiting the outcome of our cases in the court of appeal.

23. We have remained calm and unprovoked in the face of this continued and unabated recalcitrance of the Speaker to the dictate of the law by refusing to convene the house and inaugurate us. He has been seen making rather very crass and uncouth statements in electronic, print, and social media unbecoming of the Speaker of our dear state. How did we get so low? He was recently sighted somewhere in Kigali, Rwanda trending in a video on the social media announcing that he was ‘Chilling’ and that he was a ‘mafia’ in Plateau State that is hemorrhaging for finances to meet our infrastructural and social security gaps.

24. In one of his recent interviews, the Speaker was quoted on Arise TV denouncing the 16 of us and stating that he didn’t recognize us as members-elect of the House of Assembly and therefore would not inaugurate us. What insolence! The Speaker arrogated to himself the power of interpreting the judgments of our courts, choosing and cherry-picking the ones to obey and the ones to disobey. This smacks of daring impunity and contempt of the orders of the court.

25. It must be mentioned at this point with every sense of responsibility that we have been under immense pressure from our constituents and supporters who are potentially the ultimate beneficiaries of our representation. In the last couple of months, they have been without their representatives in the House of Assembly thereby emasculating their voices and depriving them of the popular participation promised them in our democracy. Our supporters and other faithfuls have mounted no less pressure on us to take measures that would accelerate our swearing-in, and some of them require circumspection because a stitch in time saves nine!

26. We have remained calm and patient, not because we are weak, or are in any doubt about the sanctity of our mandates, or even for lack of steps to take, but we do so in deference to the precarious conditions of our dear state which had suffered so much security challenges in recent times. We understand that our detractors do not care if we throw the bath water and the baby, but as responsible representatives of our people, we shall always consider their interests above all sentiments.

27. Make no mistake that we shall not allow our deep sense of community and commitment to the state to be misunderstood for weakness or meekness or allow it to sacrifice our democracy and our respective mandates on the altar of partisan considerations. Enough of the eccentric nuances of the enemies of our democracy!

28. What is even more disturbing is that leaders of goodwill and champions of democracy have remained complacent and sedentary in the face of these acts of unfair vilification and immolation of the principles of our democracy and the rule of law in Plateau State.

29. We have wondered with concern whether the democracy in Plateau State is different from that of other states. We have observed with concern that when other Houses of Assembly in the country were enmeshed in a crisis of some sort, the President and other stakeholders came to their rescue. We recall the intervention of Mr. President in the Ondo, Rivers, and most recently the Edo States crisis which gave those states succor and direction. We deserve the same, if not more attention of Mr. President and other patriots in resolving the protracted and unabated refusal of the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly to inaugurate us. Doing so would guarantee constitutionality and ensure the rule of law prevails where no one is above the law.

30. We have waited enough, giving everyone and every institution concerned the opportunity to do the needful. We will no longer continue to tolerate the wanton indiscretion of the enemies of our democracy who are parading themselves in sheep’s clothing whilst promoting the ‘rule of might’ through self-help in absolute derogation of the orders of the court. We have run out of patience and are set to defend the legal mandates given to us by our people through every legitimate means no matter whose ox is gored.

31. The height of hypocrisy playing out in Plateau State is the laughable spectacle where characters whose elections were annulled by the courts and have since been replaced at the National Assembly find refuge and are frolicking in Jos campaigning against our inauguration when their replacements have since taken their seats in the National Assembly and working for their constituents. Why aren’t they challenging their replacements in court or even opposing their inauguration?

32. Let it be known today that we are resolved and have concluded arrangements to pursue our mandates to the later, and confront these unpopular acts of subterfuge even if it means laying down our lives in order to live up to the promises we made to our constituencies during our campaigns. This is a notice to those who think they have a monopoly of nuisance and have taken to self-help. We hold the conviction that there is no place for self-help in our democracy and choosing that path is a call to anarchy and that we shall resist by every measure.

33. We shall take this battle to the doorstep of everyone concerned from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, GCFR, to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Barr. Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang, The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, The Attorney-General of the Federation, The Inspector-General of Police, The Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, and more.

34. We have also concluded arrangements with our consultants to engage all legitimate means of engaging these enemies of our democracy at all levels and institutions. No one can expropriate our God-given and constitutional mandates under whatever guise or pretense. There is no question that we are prepared to poke the bull in the eye to save our democracy and the time is now! This is consistent with our efforts to avert any potential breakdown of law and order which may be occasioned by the lingering frustration, hopelessness, helplessness, and strong agitation of our teeming supporters who have waited so long in vain for our inauguration as their representatives.

A CALL FOR ACTION

I. We take the liberty of this Press Conference to make this clarion call to all the gatekeepers of our democracy all over the world to rise to the occasion by saving Plateau State from the abyss. The wanton and unchecked immolation of democracy on the Plateau portends a dangerous precedence for this civilized form of governance. There is nowhere in our jurisprudence that the rule of might is allowed to replace the rule of law. We cannot be subjected to the whims and caprices of individuals or groups under whatever guise. We cannot sit by and watch the continued desecration of our grund norm (The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) or even the effrontery to disobey the orders of the court with impunity and at the same time claim to be democrats.

II. We call on the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu GCFR, His Excellency the Governor of Plateau State, Barr. Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang, The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, The Attorney-General of the Federation, The Inspector-General of Police, to order/direct the insidious and recalcitrant Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly to promptly convene the Plateau State House of Assembly that has been on recess for about 5 months and inaugurate us the 16 legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly returned by INEC without further delay to avert any breakdown of Law and order.

III. We call on the United Nations, The United States of America, The European Union, The United Kingdom, and all lovers of democracy all over the world to bring pressure to bear on all the institutions of governance and democracy to compel the insidious and recalcitrant Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly to promptly convene the Plateau State House of Assembly that has been on recess for about 5 months and inaugurate us the 16 legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly without further delay to avert any breakdown of Law and order.

IV. May we also call on all our traditional rulers, the clergy, community leaders, leaders of thought, civil society organizations, pressure groups, community, and ethnic associations, true friends of democracy, NBA, lawyers, human rights activists, and all well-meaning Nigerians to urgently rise to the occasion by putting pressure on the insidious and recalcitrant Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly to promptly convene the Plateau State House of Assembly that has been on recess for about 5 months and inaugurate us the 16 legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly without further delay to avert any breakdown of Law and order.

V. We call on the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly and the Conference of Former Speakers of State Houses of Assembly to save the state from descending to the precipice and state of anarchy by bringing to bear your regime of influence and authority to compel a return to true democracy on the Plateau. The present status quo is odious, reprehensible, condemnable, and requires urgent intervention. The good people of Plateau State look up to you to rescue us from the current imbroglio.

In conclusion, gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen, we wish to state categorically that the 16 of us legitimate members of the Plateau State House of Assembly here present are united and resolute in faith that the Plateau project is our collective responsibility. No one person is a greater or better Plateau than the other. We are conjoined in one destiny, and all the sentiments canvassed about our collective destiny and heritages are squarely at the center of our opportunities and we shall leave no stone unturned to ensure the realization of this noble and solemn dream.

Thank You all and God bless!

SIGNATURES

1. Rt. Hon. Sanda Yakubu Yakson

2. Hon. Naanlong Gapyil Daniel

3. Hon. Adamu Abdul Yanga

4. Hon Daniel, Nanbol Listick

5. Hon. Yusuf Dickson Chollom

6. Hon. Sunday Mark Nah

7. Hon. Eli Bako Ankala

8. Hon. Dalyop Isaac Gyang

9. Hon. Dachung Moses Dadon

10. Hon. Laven Denty Jacob

11. Hon. Wallangko Sylvester Ibrahim

12. Hon. Pwarpo Mathew Sylvanus

13. Hon. Bendel Nancwat Domfa

14. Hon. Nimchak Abel Nansak

15. Hon. Dagogot Karyit Owen

16. Hon. Maiyaki Theodore Bala

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