JUST IN: DSS Confirms Alteration In Bayelsa Deputy Gov’s Certificate
The Department of State Services (DSS) confirmed on Monday, June 1, that 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 Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal in Abuja that his agency was ordered by an Abuja court to investigate allegation of certificate forgery against Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim was at the tribunal to tender documents and testify for the petitioner upon a subpoena issued on the DG, DSS by the tribunal.
The candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa, Vijah Opuama had petitioned the tribunal, alleging that Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged exemption certificate and documents that contain false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election.
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Ibrahim, led in evidence by petitioner’s lawyer, Pius Danbe Pius, said: “My lord, on the 22nd of February 2020, we received a letter from an Area Court in Lugbe, Abuja asking the DSS to investigate the NYSC exemption certificate of Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the present Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.”
He said his agency conducted investigation by reaching out to the NYSC. He said the DG, NYSC wrote to the DG, DSS confirming alteration in the surname in the exemption certificate issued Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim however told the tribunal that the alteration was done by the NYSC at the instance of Ewhrudjakpo.
The petitioner’s lawyer later tendered a copy of the subpoena, a copy of the letter from the Area Court and two investigation reports dated May 27 and 28, 2020, including an annexture from the NYSC, through the witness.
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Respondents’ lawyers, including Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), Chris Uche (SAN) and Chukwuma Machwkwu Umeh did not object to the tendering of the documents, following which the tribunal admitted them and marked them Exhibits P1, P2, P3 and P4.
Upon a request by Pius, Ibrahim read the conclusion of the report of the investigation conducted by his agency, which the tribunal had admitted in evidence.
The conclusion of the report, as read out by Ibrahim, went thus: “Based on the foregoing and the relevant documents forwarded to this service, it is evident that the subject altered the spelling of his surname to reflect the letter D as against the letter O in the certificate of exception earlier issued by NYSC.”
Under cross-examination by lawyer to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emmanuel Enoidem, Ibrahim confirmed that the alteration in the certificate was effected by the NYSC.
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The witness agreed with Enoidem that it is the bearer of a name that knows how best to spell his/her name.
Under cross-exemination by Chris Uche (SAN), lawyer to Duoye Diri (the Bayelsa State Governor), the witness said the alteration was done by the NYSC upon the request by Ewhrudjakpo.
Uche later asked the witness to read paragraph 7 of a document marked “P3” (one of the reports the investigation by the DSS), which Ibrahim read,thus: “it is based on this recent finding, that we wish to bring to the notice of the DSS that we (the NYSC) corrected the certificate of exemption to read Ewhrudjakpo. Only the last letter A was corrected to read letter O.”
When asked to identify an attachment to the report, the witness identified it as “Annexture 2,” which he explained “is a letter to the NYSC seeking a request for correction, following which the correction was now made.”
At the conclusion of the witness’ testimony, Pius said his next witness is Ewhrudjakpo, who he said has been subpoenaed to produce the original copy of the certificate of exemption.
Pius said, by his case plan, the Deputy Governor was the next appropriate witness for the petitioner.
The tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo adjourned till Tuesday (June 2) for the hearing of a motion by Ewhrudjakpo, challenging his invitation as the petitioner’s witness.
Earlier the tribunal in a ruling, rejected an application by LM to be made a party in the case.
Justice Sirajo upheld the arguments of the respondents, to the effect that the party failed to justify why it filed the application late.
Justice Sirajo held that there was no exceptional circumstances to warrant the granting of the applicant’s request to have its application heard outside the tribunal’s pre-hearing session.
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He noted that the time for the hearing of such application has elapsed, with the applicant not being able to justify why it delayed in seeking to be made a party in a petition filed by its candidate.
Court Admits In Evidence Two Video Clips Supporting Obi’s Petition
The Presidential Election Petition Court admitted in evidence two video clips tendered by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in aid of his petition challenging the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
At the resumed hearing on Friday evening, the petitioners, through their counsel, Jubril Okutekpa, SAN, informed the court that they had subpoenaed Channels Television to produce the recordings contained in two flash drives.
Okutekpa disclosed that two separate subpoenas, dated May 30 and June 6, were served on the TV station, which he said sent one of its staff members, to tender the requested evidence.
Justice Haruna Tsammani-led’s five-member panel admitted the subpoenas in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-1 and PBH-2.
One of the flash drives is said to carry video clips of an interview that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmoud Yakubu granted before the general elections, where he assured that the results of the election would be electronically transmitted in real-time.
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The other contains a press conference by a national commissioner of the commission, Festus Okoye, who reiterated the commitment of the body to electronically transmit the results.
In a move to present the content of the video clips in the open court, a senior reporter and editor at Channels TV, Lucky Obese-Alawode, was summoned to the witness box.
However, the respondents in the petition vehemently opposed the move by the petitioners.
Counsel to President Bola Tinubu, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, queried the competence of the witness on the grounds that his statement was not filed alongside the petition.
Relying on Paragraphs 4 (5) and (6) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, Tinubu’s lawyer argued that the law is clear that a petition must be filed within 21 days after the declaration of the result of an election.
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He contended that the petitioners ought to have attached all the necessary documents as well as the list of witnesses they would call in support of their case at the time the petition was filed.
“A petition which fails to comply shall not be accepted, that is what the law says. My lords, it was after the proceeding started today that the statement of this witness was served on us.
“This is over three months after the declaration of the result of the election was made.
“This witness was not listed by the petitioners, and his statement was not attached to the petition. To that extent, he is not a competent witness who can testify before this court,” Tinubu’s lawyer insisted.
He contended that the petitioners were aware that they would rely on the said video recordings, at the time they filed the petition, yet did not attach it to the list of their documents.
Aligning with the disapproval by Olujimi, SAN, the INEC, through its lawyer, Kemi Pinhero, SAN, argued that Obi and LP should have listed the proposed evidence in their petition.
However, counsel for the petitioners, Okutekpa, SAN, contended that the witness was competent enough to testify as the subpoena was an order of the court that he had no command over.
The objections, notwithstanding, the panel admitted the two flash drives in evidence and marked them as Exhibits PBH-3 and PBH-4.
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Again, when the counsel to the petitioners applied for the contents of the flash drives to be played in the open court, the respondents disagreed except for the electoral commission which was indifferent.
Olujimi maintained that his client was not served with any copy of the flash drive.
He further stated that playing the video clips without his clients’ foreknowledge of their content could rob them of the right to a fair hearing.
He said, “This case is not hide and seek. We are entitled to be served with a copy so that we can know the content and be able to prepare. Until we are served, we will oppose allowing it to be played.”
On his part, the counsel for the All Progressives Congress, Solomon Umoh, SAN, said it would amount to an ambush for the petitioners to play the content of the flash drives without first serving the same on the respondents.
Ruling on the matter, the chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Tsammani, held that the position of the respondents is not prejudiced against playing the video clips but on their non-service beforehand.
However, for time constraints, Tsammani adjourned the matter to Saturday afternoon, June 10, for the video clips to be played in the open court.
10th NASS: South-West Caucus Writes PDP, Demands Minority Leader Position
Members-elect of the House from the South-West geopolitical zone on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party have demanded the position of Minority Leader in the coming 10th National Assembly.
The PDP caucus urged the national leadership of the opposition party to take the position from the South-South to the South-West.
The South-West caucus made the demand in a letter to the National Working Committee of the PDP, through the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum, dated June 9, 2023, a copy of which our correspondent obtained on Friday.
It was titled ‘Appeal for Your Intervention on the Zoning of the Position of Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly of House of Representatives.’
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The members-elect wrote, “We, the undersigned, being elected members of the House of Representatives from the South-West zone of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wish to respectfully invite Your Excellency to intervene on the issue of the zoning of the Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly, which is due for inauguration on Tuesday 13th June, 2023.
“Your Excellency will note that the position of the Minority Leader in the 8th and 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives was occupied by the Rt. Hon. Leo Ogor and Rt. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, respectively, who were both from the South-South zone of the country. This is a cumulative period of eight successive years.
“We wish to also draw your attention to an agreement among members-elect of the minority caucus of the House of Representatives that the position of the Minority Leader should be ceded to the Southern part of the country for the next Assembly. It is, therefore, our considered view that in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, the South-West should be duly considered to fill this position of Minority Leader in the 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives. Apart from fulfilling the core values of inclusiveness and justice which our Party is noted for, this will also greatly boost the morale of our party members and help in the strengthening of our party in the zone and the country at large.
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“We assure Your Excellency and the entire leadership of our continuous loyalty and commitment to the growth, stability and progress of the Peoples Democratic Party. We thank you most sincerely for your support and pray that the Almighty God continues to guide you in the discharge of your responsibilities. Please, see the attached list of signatories to this very important request.”
NLC Vows To Fight Against “Black Market” Court Injunctions
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Friday night said it would no longer respect “black market” court injunctions. The congress said this following a recent court injunction obtained by the Federal Government to stop the organised labour from going on a strike to protest the removal of fuel subsidy.
The union in a statement signed by its national president, Joe Ajaero said, “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are concerned by the frequent issuance of ex-parte injunctions restraining us from lawfully protesting against negative policies of government or employers in exercise of our right as contained in the provisions of ILO Conventions, Trade Union Act, Trade Dispute Act, the 1999 Constitution, the African Charter on Human Rights and other legal instruments.
“The latest of these injunctions was the order made by Honourable Justice O.Y. Anuwe in Suit No: NICN/ABJ/158/2023 between the Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor Vs. Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor. on the 5th day of June 2023 restraining NLC from protesting against the massive increase in the pump price of pms. We consider the frequency of these orders against the Congress an abuse and a violation of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court against frivolous use of ex parte.
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“More importantly, we consider these injunctions a violation of the extant laws aforementioned as well as an infringement of our right to lawful assembly and free speech.We are similarly concerned by the conduct of pliant Judges who often bend backward to accommodate the whims and caprices of the executive branch of government by way of granting frivolous injunctions which we shall hereinafter refer to as black market injunctions.
“We must warn that black market injunctions constitute inherent and present danger to the image of the judiciary as the judiciary risks being ignored. Given our experience, the greatest threat to the judiciary comes from within the judiciary by way of some compromised Judicial Officers.
“We are sounding a note of warning that any further black market or jankara injunction will not be respected by us. To show our capacity and resolve, we will show active resistance by picketing such a court.
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“We are also letting the public know that we have taken precipitate steps to vacate the extant injunction in question by briefing our lawyers.
“We wish to warn that when the citizenry lose faith in the judiciary, the probability of resorting to self-help could be quite high with unpredictable consequences.In light of these, we are calling on the Supreme Court and indeed NJC to speedily deal with erring Judges who issue frivolous injunctions.”
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