The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday shouted scandal over Friday’s declaration as a public holiday, ahead of Saturday’s local government council polls in Plateau State.
The party said that Governor Simon Lalong’s “sudden” statement will serve to thwart the hearing of his appeal against his disqualification from the polls.
She said the holiday was aimed at stopping the hearing of her case at the Court of Appeals against the state High Court ruling, preventing her (PDP) from participating in the elections.
PDP lawyer Edward Pwajok (SAN) stated the party’s position in a telephone interview with the Nigerian news agency in Mangu on Thursday.
On September 29, the PDP lost a lawsuit filed against the Plateau State Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), contesting the party’s exclusion from the municipal polls.
Judge Ishaku Kunda of the Jos State High Court, in his opinion, confirmed the decision of the PLASIEC to ban the PDP from participating in the polls.
Dissatisfied, the party turned to the court of appeal, which set October 8, for the hearing of the case.
The PDP, which had urged its members to remain calm, was anxiously awaiting the appeals court on Friday when Mr. Lalong declared the holiday, canceling any session on the fixed date.
In a broadcast, the governor said the purpose of the vacation was to allow civil servants to travel to their communities to vote.
But Mr. Pwajok told NAN that “the whole idea of the holiday is to prevent the Court of Appeal from meeting to hear our motion of our appeal against the lower court ruling in favor of PLASIEC.
“We know the game is taking place, but tomorrow we will go to the Court of Appeal for our case. If the court doesn’t open, we know what to say. If he sits down, then that’s fine.
“I won’t say anything else until tomorrow, because tomorrow at 9.00 I’ll be in court. If he sits down, fine, we’ll proceed, but if not, we know what to say, “Pwajok said.
But PLASIEC’s lawyer, Garba Pwul, described Lalong’s Friday statement as an election holiday as “normal”.
“This is the right step for a compelling reason. I’m surprised the PDP is coloring the whole thing. After all, this isn’t the first time the government has declared an election holiday.
“Mr. Lalong, after all, is not a party to appeal. His party, the APC, is not. Only PLSIEC is a party to the dispute.
“We (PLASIEC) have received the hearing notice of their (PDP) motion scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, but with the situation at hand, it may not be possible until after the election.
“In fact, former President Olusegun Obasanjo did something similar in 2007 when he declared a public holiday on the day a sentence was to be passed on the impeachment case of then-highland governor Joshua Dariye.
“That Friday (judgment day), the Supreme Court could only meet after a month, when the elections were held.
“Therefore, no one should impute improper reasons 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 we have to take into account the plight of every sector of government in the state,” he said.
Pwul said civil servants deserve to have the chance and the opportunity to travel to their respective communities to participate in elections.
State Information Commissioner Dan Manjang, who spoke to NAN, also dismissed allegations of ulterior motives to the government’s declaration of a public holiday on the eve of municipal elections.
“Governor Lalong’s statement has nothing to do with the PDP case against PLASIEC. It is purely a truce for civil servants to allow them to participate in local council elections, period, “Manjang said.
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