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Protests rock Abuja over tenure elongation, one allegedly killed

By Tunde Joshua

…it signals danger ahead of 2023, PDP tells EU

As expected, the capital city of Abuja and some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under control of the six area councils of Bwari, Kwali, Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kuje and the Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC) witnessed protests over court orders of one-year tenure elongation for chairmen and councillors whose terms in office should have expired on Friday, May 20, 2022.

The FCT Minister, Malam Mohammed Bello on Thursday suspended the planned inauguration of the six area council officials following a judgment by the FCT High Court which extended the tenure of the chairmen and councillors from three to four years in line with the provisions of the recently signed Electoral Act of 2022.

As early as 7.00 am Friday, protesters who are mainly Abuja indigenes and supporters of the various council chairmen elect and their parties on Friday took to the streets of Abuja to protest the suspension of the swearing-in ceremony.

All entrances to the Federal Capital Development Area (FCDA) and the office of the FCT minister were blocked by protesters preventing workers, traders around the premises and even security personnel from entering or leaving the offices.

The peaceful protesters stormed the FCDA secretariat chanting solidarity songs, calling the FCT minister to do the needful by ignoring the court order and swear in the elected council officials.

The protesters were armed with placards bearing various inscriptions such as ” You can’t stop the inauguration of our chairmen”, “We won’t allow you to destroy democracy”, “FCT Minister, we know you obey the law swear in as enshrined in the constitution,” “You were sworn in with the old electoral act,” the new Chairmen should be sworn in with the new electoral act”, etc.

Roads leading to the Gwagwalada Area council secretariat were blocked by human barricades while the protest was violent in Giri area in which one person reportedly died.

The protest was also violent in the Kuje area council but no life was lost.

The Trumpet gathered that the protesters were bitter with the APC administration over what was described as a plot to ostracise the oppositions from governance.

Mr Yakubu Adaji told our correspondent that “the APC knowing fully that AMAC which is the centre of the Federal Government seat has been taken away from them by the PDP, they want to retain power through the back door with the purchased judgement.

“Looking at the amount of revenue being generated by AMAC, the APC did not want to let go of the area council.

“They know fully that one-year elongation will not affect area councils like Kuje, Bwari and Abaji where the same persons in power were asked to continue in office but how do you explain AMAC where power has changed hands”

A social crusader, Ahmed Adamu said “without playing politics with the issue, we are saying the extension is uncalled for, unjust and capable of putting the country up in flames”.

Both the FCT minister, Mohammed and the Minister of State, RamatuTijani are out of the country as the protesters insisted they be addressed by one of them as well as ensure that their demands are met.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had on Thursday raised the alarm that a chaotic situation is imminent in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) should the ruling of an FCT High Court elongating the tenure of chairmen and councillors of the six area councils be allowed to subsist.

This is as the party condemned impunity under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration while submitting that the party wants to foist anarchy if such undemocratic tenure extension be allowed.

The party’s spokesman, Debo Ologunagba at a press conference Thursday evening said the PDP totally rejected the court ruling while insisting that the inauguration of elected officers at the six area councils must take place on Friday, May 20, 2022, as required by law.

The party alerted Nigerians and the International Community of the “very dangerous design by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in connivance with certain judicial officers to abridge our democratic system and foist anarchy in our country.”

This he said was because of “a bizarre judgement” by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, in suit No. FCT/HC/W/910/2022, wherein he attempted to extend by one year, the tenure of the out-going Chairmen and Councilors of FCT Area Councils, which expires tomorrow, Friday, May 20, 2022.

“The clear intent of this judgment, according to PDP “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 Councillors and impose an undemocratic government in the FCT.”

Rejecting the judgement in its entirety, the party said “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, whose 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 which the judge knows or ought to know is illegal as no law can be made retroactive.”

PDP noted that the Court gave judgement in the 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 said it 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 party argued that seamless transfer of power from one administration to another is the bedrock of democracy which the PDP is noted for having peacefully transferred power to the present APC-led government in 2015.

“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 the 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 party, therefore, cautioned the outgoing Chairmen and Councilors 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 henceforth.

The PDP went ahead to call on the people of the FCT to get ready for the swearing-in of their new Chairmen and Councilors duly elected on February 12, 2022, as our Party takes firm legal steps to address the orchestrated attempt by the APC and Justice Ibrahim Mohammed to frustrate the will of the people.

Petitioning the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), the party urged him 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,” said the PDP.

However, the FCT minister expressed displeasure with the judgement in a statement he issued on Thursday.

The statement read “as you are all aware, in March of 2019, we held the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory, whereby Six Council Chairmen and Councilors were elected after a very competitive and rigorous process.

“These six Council Chairmen of the FCT were then inaugurated on the 20th of May 2019, under the 2010 Electoral Act. Based on that Act, the tenure of the Chairmen would end today and the new Chairmen, based on the elections held in February this year, would be sworn in on 20th May 2022.

“But a few days ago, we received communication of a judgment by a court in the Federal Capital Territory directing us to suspend the inauguration of the new Chairmen, based on the fact that the current Chairmen’s tenure would end today, 19th May 2022.

“According to the judgment, based on the recently signed Electoral Act of 2022, which stipulates that the tenure of office of the Chairmen of the Area Councils in FCT would now be four years instead of three years, the existing Chairmen whose tenure was meant to expire or end today, have another one year to continue, based on the new law.

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“So, as a law-abiding government, the FCT Administration has no option but to suspend the planned inauguration of the Six Area Council Chairmen of the Federal Capital Territory who were duly elected some weeks ago as a result of this injunction of the court.

“Also, as an administration that is very conscious of the need to abide by the rule of law, even though we are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, we have no option but to comply.”

“The administration will comply, while also making efforts to vacate the judgment and if the need arises, to appeal the judgment, so that the correct position of the law will be determined by the legal processes.

“In the interim, therefore, we are very conscious of the fact that the stand of the court has raised a lot of concerns within certain sections of the Federal Capital Territory residents. I wish to appeal to everyone to be calm, be law-abiding and await the outcome of the legal processes.

“FCT is a creation of law. The FCT has always been known to be a place of unity, peace and good governance and populated by law-abiding residents. Please let us continue the way we are and await the court processes. At the end of the court processes, the clear direction of what needs to be done would be clearly stated and then as an administration, we will do the needful.”

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