In November, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal declared Simon Lalong as the duly elected senator representing Plateau South, resolving a lengthy legal dispute over the senatorial election,Premiu Times reports.
A three-member panel of the appellate court ousted Napoleon Bali of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ruling that he was not properly nominated as the party’s candidate for the February 25 election. Subsequently, the court directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Mr. Lalong, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate.
While INEC has complied with the court order by issuing the certificate to Mr. Lalong, sources within the APC suggest that he is leaning towards resigning from his ministerial position to assume the role of a federal lawmaker. However, this information has not been independently verified.
Despite the court’s pronouncement over a month ago, Mr. Lalong has not presented himself for swearing-in as a member of the National Assembly, causing concern among his constituents in Plateau South, which includes six local government areas.
The Nigerian constitution does not specify a time frame for senators to be sworn in after a court judgment. Nevertheless, legal experts assert that Mr. Lalong must make a prompt decision, especially given the prevailing ethnic conflict and bandit tension in his state.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), emphasizes the need for Mr. Lalong to decide promptly, considering the court order and the importance of ensuring adequate representation for his constituents in the Senate. Another senior lawyer, Eze Onyekpere, suggests that Mr. Lalong should have resigned as a minister immediately upon receiving his certificate of return.
Comparisons are drawn with previous instances where senators were swiftly sworn in following court judgments. The delay in Mr. Lalong’s inauguration is seen as denying his constituents representation in the parliament.
The recent court rulings in Plateau and other states have sparked allegations of inconsistency and bias, leading to increased scrutiny of the judiciary’s decisions. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has criticized what it perceives as varying and conflicting judicial pronouncements, pointing to a perceived bias in favor of the APC.
As the situation unfolds, concerns persist about the delay in Mr. Lalong assuming his role as a senator and the impact on effective representation for the constituents of Plateau South.