Gov. opts for out-of-court settlement with sacked officials

Justice must take its course

Simon Lalong, Plateau State Governor

Plateau Governor Simon Lalong on Monday expressed readiness for an out-of-court settlement with local government officials he sacked In 2015.

The Governor stated this before Justice Philomena Lot of Jos High Court IV, through his Counsel, Mr Sunday Obende, when the case filed by 25 sacked chairmen and vice chairmen of the 17 local governments came up.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that Lalong had, on July 6, 2015, sacked the elected council officials, and replaced them with interim management committees.

No reason was given for the sack of the council officials that had two years left of their three-years tenure, when they were removed.

Aggrieved by the action, the sacked officials dragged Lalong, the State’s Attorney General, the State House of Assembly and the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC) to court as 1st, 2nd , 3rd and 4th defendants.

The officials, through their Counsel, Mr Philemon Daffi, asked the court to declare their sack as “unlawful, illegal,unconstitutional, null and void’’.

They also requested for an order compelling the defendants to pay them an accumulative N250,123,075.86 being their withheld salaries and allowances, from July 2015 to March 3, 2017, to complete the residues of their respective tenures.

When the case was last heard on March 10, 2017, Justice Lot had advised the Plateau Government and the sacked local government chairmen to pursue an out-of-court settlement to the dispute arising from the sack.

The judge advised lawyers to all parties to talk to their clients toward finding a common ground for an out-of-court settlement, and adjourned the matter to April 10.

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On their return to court on Monday (April 10), Obende told the court that the Judge’s advice was accepted by the Governor.

“He (governor) has given me his words on his readiness to have a round table discussion with the aggrieved sacked council officials.

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“My Lord, the tone for the out-of-court settlement has already been set and we are going on with it since the Plaintiffs are ready for it.

“I met  with the 3rd Plaintiff, Mr Caleb Mutfwang, former Chairman, Mangu Local Government, immediately after we left the court last month and we all agreed to consider the terms for the settlement,” he said.

Obende spoke further: “the governor, as a lawyer, has experienced similar fate in the past and is disposed to an out-of-court settlement; he is the father of the state and knows what should be done to promote friendship,” he said.

Mr Philemon Daffi, Counsel to the Plaintiffs, on his part, told the court that his clients had heeded the advice of the Judge but that nothing tangible had been done regarding an out-of-court settlement.

“My Lord, we were so pleased with your advice; one of the plaintiffs, Mr Mutfwang, even went on to meet the governor’s counsel. I was invited to that meeting and we talked at length on the issue.

“But, the only snag is that nothing tangible has been achieved. We have not been invited for any round table discussion up to now that we are appearing before you. But we are ready for it,” Daffi said.

Daffi told the court that he was happy to hear that the governor was willing to discuss with his clients, saying that they were ready for an amicable settlement.

Mrs. Lotben, Counsel to the Attorney General, the House of Assembly and the PLASIEC, in his comment, said that his clients had also consented to an amicable settlement of the issue.

After listening to all sides, the judge expressed happiness at the development and expressed hope that “beautiful things’’ will come out of the discussion.

“I hope that there shall be a hand shake after the round table discussion,’’ she said.

She adjourned the case to May 21, 2017 for reports on possible settlement and hearing of applications.