Bayelsa guber: Tribunal to deliver judgment Saturday

The Bayelsa State Governorship Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja will on Saturday, August 15, 2020, deliver judgment in the petition challenging the qualification of the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhruojakpo

Before fixing the date, the Justice Ibrahim Sirajo led three-member  tribunal took final submissions for and against the petition by counsel the respective parties.

The petitioner, Vijah Opuama, of the Liberation Movement had filed his petition on February 21, 2020 challenging the declaration of His Excellency, Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as governor and deputy governor respectively in Bayelsa State.

Opuama is seeking the disqualification of Ewhrudjakpo on the grounds of irregularities in his academic qualifications and the cancellation of the governorship election.

He also prayed the court to order a fresh election in Bayelsa, alleging that the poll conducted by the INEC failed to comply with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The Department of State Service had in it’s evidence before the tribunal said  its investigation revealed alteration in the exemption certificate issued by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Oborawharievwo Ewhrudjakpo.

The Head, Legal Department, DSS, Abdulsalam Ibrahim, who represented DSS’ Director General, told  the Tribunal that his agency was ordered by an Abuja court to investigate allegation of certificate forgery against Ewhrudjakpo

But in his response, Ewhrudjakpo told the state governorship election tribunal that the documentary evidence tendered by the Department of State Security Service (DSS) in respect of the petition against him are riddled with contradictions and  conflicting information that cannot be relied upon by the tribunal.

The deupty governor in his final written address to the tribunal filed by his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN),  contended that “Nowhere in the pleadings did the petitioner alleged discrepancies sought to be established by exhibit P3 (the letter to the Director General, DSS from the Director General NYSC dated May 27, 2020). In other words, the case of the petitioner was not whether his name was altered or mutilated from “Ewhiruodjakpa to Ewhirudjakpo (i.e. alteration of the letter “O” in the former to “D” in the latter.) Neither was it the case of the petitioner that the letter “A” in the former was altered to “O” in the latter.

He said he was baffled by what might have prompted the exhibit P3, when the DSS admitted in evidence it only wrote one letter to the NYSC. “Does the conclusion in exhibit P3 support that in exhibit R8, the letter of March 10, 2020. Did the DSS send a second letter to the NYSC?

“To further point out the inherent contradictions in exhibit P3, annexure 1 attached thereto, which was the certificate by the 4th respondent (Ewhirudjakpo) to the 1st respondent (INEC), for the purpose of contesting the Bayesla Senatorial election, has his surname spelt as “Ewhiruojakpa”.

The deputy governor urged the  tribunal to note that he submitted the said certificate six months before his application for correction. “What then would be the rationale for him to alter the same certificate he seeks to correct after attaching other certificates in his request for correction by NYSC?

He further submitted that “since the purport of exhibit P3 is to establish that he altered his certificate before application, could the NYSC have effected correction on a forged certificate without raising eyebrow.

Ume drew the attention of the tribunal to the fact that “in petition No.1 before this tribunal, this  same PW1 who tendered this exhibit P3 tendered a similar documents with curious difference. In that petition No. 1, it was marked exhibit P31 but CTC of it was tendered herein as exhibit R3.

“In it, the annexure to the 4th respondent’s application for correction had “Ewhruojakpa” with “O”. Now, home come this exhibit P3 has a contradictory and conflicting document? While in exhibit R3, it’s 3–COE (Certificate of Exemption) to be corrected reads: “Ewhruojakpa” in exhibit P3 document 3-COE to be corrected reads: “Ewhruojakpa.”

In addition, Ume informed the tribunal that the said exhibit P3 is also in total contradiction to paragraph 3 of exhibit R8 wherein the same Director General of NYSC in it’s earlier letter dated March 10, 2020 to the same DG DSS stated:

“His name with typographical error as Ewhruojakpa Lawrence O. and same was in scripted in the certificate of eligibility under reference. However, Mr. Lawrence recently forwarded an application for correction of name dated April 4, 2019 and requested for correction of his surname on his certificate of exemption from Ewhruojakpa to Ewhrudjakpo supported with relevant documents marked annexure A-E.

“Accordingly, his request for the correction was thereafter granted and duly effected in the scheme database and on the original certificate of exemption No.139708 since it is minor correction that does not require replacement of the certificate annexure F-G.  – The Sun.

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