The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday cried foul over the declaration of Friday as a public holiday, ahead of Saturday’s local government council polls in Plateau State.
The party said the “sudden” declaration by Governor Simon Lalong was to thwart the hearing of its appeal against its disqualification from the polls.
It said the public holiday was targeted at stopping the hearing of its suit at the Appeal Court against the judgment of the state High Court, barring it (PDP) from participating in the election.
Counsel to PDP, Edward Pwajok (SAN), stated the party’s position in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Mangu, on Thursday.
PDP had, on September 29, lost a case it filed against the Plateau State Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), challenging the party’s exclusion from the council polls.
Justice Ishaku Kunda of the state High Court in Jos, 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 October 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 Mr Lalong declared the day a public holiday, knocking off any sitting on the fixed date.
In a broadcast, the governor said the aim of the holiday was to enable civil servants to travel to their communities to vote.
But Mr Pwajok told NAN that “the whole idea of the public holiday is to stop the Court of Appeal from sitting to hear our 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,” Mr Pwajok declared.
But the counsel to PLASIEC, Garba Pwul, described Mr Lalong’s declaration of Friday as a public holiday for the election as “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 the government is declaring a public holiday in respect of elections.
“Mr 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 judgment was to be given on then Plateau Governor Joshua Dariye’s impeachment case.
“On that Friday (judgement day), the Supreme Court could not sit until after one month, when elections had been conducted.
“So, nobody should impute improper motives 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.
Mr Pwul said civil servants deserve to be given the chance and opportunity to travel to their respective communities in order to take part in the elections.
The state’s information commissioner, Dan Manjang, who also spoke with NAN, also dismissed allegations of ulterior motives behind the government’s declaration of a public holiday on the eve of the council elections.
“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,” Mr Manjang said.