By Alex Enumah
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, will on Friday open his defence in an alleged certificate forgery brought against him by the governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement, Mr Vijah Opuama.
Ewhrudjakpo will defend himself at the state’s Governorship Electoral Petition Tribunal where his nomination for the deputy governorship position is being challenged.
The tribunal presided over by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, sitting in Abuja fixed June 12 for the defence of the deputy governor after the petitioner formally closed his case on Tuesday.
The petitioner, Opuama, through his counsel, Mr Pius Danba, had rested his case after calling three out of 30 witnesses billed to testify against the nomination of Ewhrudjakpo for the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, the petitioner who served as third witness, was confronted with anomalies in his own certificate by Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer, Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN).
Ume noted that the discrepancies in the documents that the petitioner presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification indicated that the issue of alleged certificate forgery was nothing more than a mere human error that should not be taken as forgery.
Speaking with journalists shortly after the proceedings, Ume said: “The way the petitioner closed his case has shown that it is a small issue of human error, small slips does not amount to forgery and falsification.”
Before the petitioner closed his case, he had last week withdrawn his prayer on the tribunal to subpoena the deputy governor to give evidence in the matter.
The petitioner had withdrawn the application on the grounds that he no longer needed Ewhrudjakpo to testify for him as a witness.
Opuama is challenging Ewhrudjakpo’s qualification to stand in the Bayelsa State governorship election, on the grounds that the deputy governor submitted a forged exemption certificate to INEC before the election.
The tribunal had, in a subpoena Tuesday, last week, ordered the state’s deputy governor to appear before it on Thursday to produce the original copy of his disputed certificate, following an application to that effect by the petitioner.
Although the deputy governor initially challenged the subpoena application through a motion but however changed his mind and presented himself in obedience to the order of the tribunal.
The Department of State Services (DSS), one of the witnesses who testified on behalf of the petitioner, had told the tribunal that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) actually effected the change of name on the exemption certificate issued to Ewhrudjakpo.
The witness further told the tribunal that Ewhrudjakpo after noticing that there was a mistake in his name had asked the NYSC to make necessary correction.