The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lashed out at the court judgment seeking to extend the tenure of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council administrations by one year despite the conduct of fresh elections.
The tenure was due to end Friday, May 20, 2020, but the swearing-in of the newly elected officials was put off by the Minister of the FCT, Mohammed Bello, following a court order handed down by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed of the High Court of the FCT on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, described the court order as a bizarre judgement.
He noted that the judgment is a very dangerous design by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in connivance with certain judicial officers to abridge the democratic system and foist anarchy in the country.
The party spokesman added: “The clear intent of this judgment is to abridge our electoral process, overthrow the entire outcome of the FCT Area Council election held on Saturday, February 12, 2022, which was overwhelmingly won by candidates of the PDP, and halt the swearing-in of the newly elected Chairmen and Councilors and impose an undemocratic government in the FCT.
“The PDP vehemently and without equivocation rejects the judgement in its entirety. This judgment cannot be executed as it is unconstitutional, illegal, baseless and devoid of any legal foundation and reasoning for implementation.
“This is because the four years tenure provided for FCT Area Council Chairmen and Councilors in the newly enacted Electoral Act 2022, upon which the judgement is based, cannot be made retroactive to apply to outgoing Chairmen and Councilors who were elected under the 2010 Electoral Act which provided for a three-year tenure commencing from the date of their swearing-in.
“Alarmingly, the intent of this judgement by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed is to make the law retroactive to illegally favour the outgoing Chairmen and Councilors who were sworn in for a three-year tenure under the 2010 Electoral Act, which tenure, by the provision of that Act, ends on May 20, 2022.
“It is instructive to state that the Electoral Act 2022 has a commencement date of February 25, 2022. It is trite in law that laws become effective from their commencement date and cannot be retroactive in effect as being attempted by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed.
“It is even more worrisome that the FCT High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed would allow itself to be used to a point where it can give a judgment that the judge knows or ought to know is illegal as no law can be made retroactive.
“Nigerians are invited to note that the Court gave judgement in this case with a set of individuals as Claimants and the Minister of the FCT as the Sole Defendant, leaving out necessary parties, including the PDP, whose candidates won the majority of seats in the February 12, 2022 elections; the National Assembly that enacted the law, the Attorney General of the Federation, who has the responsibility of executing the law and of course the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which conducted the elections.
“The PDP is persuaded to believe that the judgment is a deliberate attempt to subvert the democratic process without regard to the consequential crisis and restiveness such portend in the FCT.”
The main opposition party averred that the seamless transfer of power from one administration to another is the bedrock of democracy which, Ologunagba said, the PDP is noted for having peacefully transferred power to the present APC-led government in 2015.
He added: “The APC should know that any breakdown of Law and Order in the FCT on account of an attempt to muscle or abridge the right and the Will of the people will be inconsistent with that very fundamental principle of democracy, which is the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.
“Moreover, we hope this is not an attempt to lay a foundation to use the court to actualize a veiled third term agenda being rumoured. The APC should know that such will be firmly resisted by Nigerians.”
The PDP cautioned the outgoing chairmen and councillors whose tenure under the 2010 Electoral Act upon which they were sworn in will effectively come to an end by the effusion of time on Friday, May 20, 2022, to steer clear of the respective Area Council offices from that date
The party called on the people of the FCT to get ready for the swearing-in of their new chairmen and councillors duly elected on February 12, 2022, as, according to the spokesman, the PDP takes firm legal steps to address “the orchestrated attempt by the APC and Justice Ibrahim Mohammed to frustrate the will of the people.”
The PDP urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to protect the integrity of the judiciary by immediately calling Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed to order, especially for violating the CJN’s persistent admonitions to judges not to open themselves to political manipulations.
“The Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed by this judgment has brought the institution of the Judiciary into disrepute. Our party will ensure that this illegal judgment is set aside as well as take firm steps against Justice Ibrahim Mohammed including referring his conduct which is unbecoming of a judicial officer to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for sanction so as to restore the confidence Nigerians have on the very respected institution of the Judiciary,” the PDP maintained.
In the Area Council elections conducted on February 12, 2023, the PDP and the APC spilt three-six chairmanship positions by taking three each while the main opposition party won the majority of the 62 councilorship positions in the territory.