Alleged Certificate Forgery: Bayelsa Deputy Gov to Open Defence Friday

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Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, will on Friday open his defence in an alleged certificate forgery case 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 Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, sitting in Abuja, fixed June 12 for the defence of the deputy governor after the petitioner formally closed his case yesterday.

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 yesterday’s proceedings, the petitioner who served as the 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”.

Last week, the petitioner had withdrawn his prayer to the tribunal to subpoena the deputy governor to give evidence in the matter.

He withdrew 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, in a subpoena last week, had ordered Ewhrudjakpo to appear before it last 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, he changed his mind and appeared before the tribunal.

The Department of State Services (DSS), one of the witnesses that 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 told the tribunal that Ewhrudjakpo, after noticing that there was a mistake in his name, had asked the NYSC to correct the error.