Constituents Collate Signatures to Recall Simon Lalong

by J.J Olawuyi

The verdict from the Supreme Court, which recently affirmed the elections of various state governors, has left enduring impacts across the nation.

Particularly noteworthy is the affirmation of Mr. Caleb Mutfwang as the legitimate governor of Plateau State. This comes after the Court of Appeal (CA) had previously overturned Mutfwang’s election victory, despite the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Jos confirming his win.

The decision by the CA to overturn Mutfwang’s election, along with those of members of the National Assembly and Plateau State House of Assembly, was based on issues related to the primary elections conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), their sponsoring party.

The Supreme Court, however, stood by Mutfwang’s election as the rightful governor of Plateau State. The highest court criticized the CA justices for misjudging the case and delving into what it termed as pre-election matters beyond their jurisdiction, noting that there was clear evidence that the appellant had not violated any court orders.

Senator Napoleon Bali, who represented Plateau South from July to October 2023 before his removal by the CA, is among those greatly satisfied with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict that reinstated Governor Mutfwang of the PDP, who had been removed by the CA over nomination disputes, there’s renewed hope for former Senators like Napoleon Bali, Simon Mwadkwon, and other members of the House of Representatives and Plateau State House of Assembly who were dismissed for similar reasons by the CA.

Senator Bali, in a conversation with Sunday Times, mentioned that their legal team is considering several options, including returning to court to seek redress for the injustice meted out or potentially living with the situation for the next three years, as well as recalling those appointed by the CA’s decision.

Bali, who hasn’t visited his Plateau South senatorial district recently, reported that his constituents are actively gathering signatures to recall Senator Simon Bako Lalong, the former Minister of Labour and Employment.

Lalong, who served as the governor of Plateau State from 2015 to 2023 and unsuccessfully contested for the Plateau South senatorial seat under the All Progressive Congress (APC), was significantly defeated by Bali of the PDP. Despite this, President Bola Tinubu appointed Lalong as the Minister of Labour and Employment before the CA’s decision to replace Bali with Lalong as the senator representing Plateau South, an action executed on December 20, 2023.

However, information available to Sunday Times suggests Lalong’s tenure in the Senate could be short-lived as his constituents in Plateau South are making advanced plans to recall him.

Senator Bali explained that the people’s decision to recall Lalong, whom the CA favored despite losing by over 57,000 votes, stems from his lack of popularity.

Bali emphasized that the residents of Plateau South are resolved not to accept Lalong, citing his defeat across various local governments, and reported that over 300,000 signatures have already been collected for Lalong’s recall, a fact known to Lalong and the APC. Once the necessary threshold of signatures is reached, a petition will be filed, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be approached to verify the signatures and potentially conduct a referendum.

Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s ruling that also reinstated Governor Mutfwang of Plateau State, Bali expressed satisfaction, noting the distinction between the law and its interpreters.

Bali’s confidence in the judiciary has been restored following the Supreme Court’s decision, which he views as a corrective measure against the misjudgments of the CA and certain tribunal panels. He commended the Supreme Court justices for adhering to the law and the constitution, reflecting on the broader implications of justice for patriotism and the well-being of Nigeria.

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