By Enyichukwu Enemanna
A former Nigerian Minister has approached the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, urging it to set aside the judgment of an FCT high court which bars her from holding public office.
Mrs Pauline Tallen served as the Minister of Women Affairs under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari from 2019-2023.
Justice Peter Kekemeke of the FCT High Court had on Dec. 18 barred Tallen in a case filed against her by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) over her alleged “disparaging” comment against an earlier court judgement.
The former Minister also refused the option of publishing a personally signed apology letter to the NBA, the judiciary and Nigerians in one full page each of two national dailies which was given to her by the judge.
The 30 days window given to her from the date of the judgement after which the order becomes perpetual has expired, prompting her to seek a reversal at the Appeal Court.
The ruling was tantamount to a miscarriage of justice, the former Minister told the Appeal Court.
In a Notice of Appeal filed on Jan. 2, 2024, Tallen, through her lawyer, JK Gadzama SAN, formulated 13 grounds of appeal against the trial court’s decision, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
Tallen, a former Deputy Governor of Plateau State North Central Nigeria and one-time Minister of State, Science and Technology, also prayed the appellate court to, among other reliefs, dismiss the suit and set aside the decision of the court.
She stressed that the trial court erred in law, arguing that its decision against her preliminary objection on the competence of the respondent’s affidavit, locus standi, propriety of the suit, in spite of the credible evidence submitted, was a miscarriage of justice.
It would be recalled that while delivering judgement on the case, the FCT High Court had described Tallen’s alleged comments against the judiciary concerning a decision of the Federal High Court in Adamawa State as “unconstitutional, careless, reckless, disparaging.”
It further held that the former minister’s call to disobey the judgement of the court was “contemptuous of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.”
Tallen’s battle with the NBA began after Sen Aisha Dahiru (Binani), the then Adamawa APC governorship flagbearer, had polled 430 votes to defeat her closest rival, Nuhu Ribadu, who polled 288, during the May 2022 APC primary elections.
Binani’s closest opponent, Nuhu Ribadu, now National Security Adviser (NSA), challenged the outcome of the contest but Justice Abdulaziz Anka, nullified Binani’s victory on account of non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022, Nigeria’s constitution, and the APC’s guidelines.
Tallen, as the serving Minister of Women Affairs and stalwart of the APC, while reacting to the judgment at a public function allegedly described it as a Kangaroo judgment, whose aim was the marginalisation of women in Nigerian politics.
She alleged that many women, like Binani, who was the only female aspirant in the Adamawa APC governorship primary, were not fairly treated during the primaries for the 2023 general elections.
The NBA, led by its then President, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, did not take the former minister’s comments lightly and sought an apology from her but to no avail, NAN says.
The NBA then wrote her a letter, dated 14 November, 2022, demanding a withdrawal of the alleged disparaging comments and tendering of an unreserved and public apology to the Court, which Tallen did not oblige.
According to the NBA, its letter was never responded to and its demands therein were not complied with by Tallen, hence the institution of the suit against her before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.