Mutfwang, Lalong camps trade tackles over alleged $5m judges bribe
By Mark Longyen
The Plateau State chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are currently on each other’s jugular over a media report that former Governor of the state, Simon Lalong, had bribed the justices of the Court of Appeal with the sum of $5 million to ensure the sack of incumbent Gov Caleb Mutfwang by the Court of Appeal.
The war of words was precipitated by a post by renowned investigative journalist, Jackson Ude, on his official Twitter (X) handle that Lalong, now Minister of Labour, had shared a whooping bribe of five million dollars to the justices of the Court of Appeal panel handling the case of Gov Mutfwang before them in order to get a favorable judgment that would culminate in the sacking of the governor from office and the declaration of his APC opponent as his replacement.
Ude had claimed that Lalong took a chartered flight ferrying the alleged bribe money to Marriott Hotel in Lagos on Thursday, where he allegedly shared the money to ensure the sacking of Mutfwang from office, an allegation that has seen the two parties enmeshed in a vicious exchange of brutal verbal staccatos.
Gov. Mutfwang, while reacting to the allegation in a statement by his spokesman, Gyang Bere, condemned and distanced himself from it, saying it was clearly the handiwork of his opponents, without categorically mentioning a name, and noted that the move was aimed at sowing the seed of discord between him and the revered jurists.
Describing the allegation as baseless, he said: ”I strongly condemn the baseless and defamatory allegations being circulated by certain individuals, accusing judges of receiving a $5 million bribe for the nullification of my election.
“This is a deliberate action of my detractors aimed at sowing the seed of discord between myself, the esteemed judges and other constituted authorities.
“I wish to distance myself from the false narrative; it is a mere fabrication crafted by individuals who are being manipulated as pawns by the opposition party in Plateau.
“This latest move is an attempt to tarnish the image of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government in Plateau and such malicious actions will not deter my commitment and confidence in the Judiciary.”
He, therefore, called on security agencies to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, identify and apprehend those responsible for the publication.
Reacting to the allegation, the Lalong camp, through the state chapter of the APC, in a statement issued by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Sylvanus Namang, categorically pointed accusing fingers at the PDP as being behind the bribery allegation.
The APC claimed that the PDP too has been ferrying tonnes of finances to Abuja ostensibly to bribe Judges to make them change their minds, describing the efforts as futile because the justices do not operate at the whims and caprices of any party, adding that they are true adjucators and interpreters of of the laws.
The statement also described as laughable and an irony that the governor was blaming the APC as the being behind the report, stressing that the APC cannot for whatever reason descend as low and desperate as PDP but would rather remain focused on pursuing its cases at the Courts which it firmly believed in winning.
The APC urged Gov Mutfwang to refrain from what it described as the double speak of condemning bad behaviour of groups and individuals, who are sponsored by PDP to denigrate the judiciary each time members of the public reacted to the contrary.
The statement reads in part as follows:
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Plateau State has read with great dismay a fabricated piece trending on the social media which is obviously part of the ongoing assassination of the character of Appeal Court Judges handling the Gubernatorial appeal which is awaiting ruling soon.
“In the piece by one Jackson Ude, who is, no doubt, one of the hired writers and willing tools by the Plateau State Government, which has shifted base to Abuja for its destructive misadventure against the judiciary, he has alleged that the APC-led Federal Government is doing everything possible to remove the Plateau state Governor from office.
“According to the author, the former Governor of Plateau State and Minister of Labour and Employment, HE Rt. Hon.Simon Bako Lalong was given $5 Million to share to the Plateau State Gubernatorial Appeal Judges “to sack Governor Caleb Mutfwang of PDP and declare Dr Nentawe Yilwatda of the APC as the winner”. This is not only a fabrication but is also an allegation that is libelous to say the least.
“The author has dragged the names of eminent personalities and appointees of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu namely, HE Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, COS and Nuhu Ribadu, NSA into their hallucinations. He also claimed that these well-respected and celebrated personalities in governance had after the ongoing Conference of Judges yesterday, Thursday, 16th November, 2023 mandated the Minister of Labour and Employment who himself has been so terribly vilified and defamed over the tribunal judgements, to fly to Lagos in a private jet and deliver the said amount to Justice Waziri who is on the panel at Marriott Hotel in Lagos!
“This clearly sponsored script by the embattled PDP-led Government, has with reckless abandon completely thrown caution and decorum to the winds. Accusing these key officials of the President, invariably amounts to indicting Mr. President himself. If not we challenge the sponsored author to tell Nigerians who released the alleged sum.
“These futile exercises should stop forthwith as what is happening is a build-up to anarchy and explosion on the Plateau which the governor needs to exercise great caution.
“It is laughable and an irony the familiar sing song by the embattled governor blaming the APC as the being behind these propaganda. The APC cannot for whatever reason descend as low and desperate as they are but we remain focused on pursuing our cases at the Courts which we firmly believe in.”
For now, it remains to be seen, how long the political rivalry between the APC and PDP in Plateau will take, or who blinks first, in this high stake battle for the soul of the state.