Alex Enumah in Abuja
Hearing in the alleged perjury suit filed against Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki by his former party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is expected to commence today at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had on November 4, ordered for an accelerated trial of Obaseki over allegations bordering on lying on oath, presenting of false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to aid his qualification for the recent governorship election in Edo State, won by Obaseki under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obaseki who became governor of Edo State in 2016 under the platform of the APC had in the twilight of his first tenure decamped to the PDP.
Although the APC had denied him the ticket for his second tenure by screening him out of the party’s primary for the 2020 governorship poll, alleging certificate forgery amongst others, his departure from the party however was believed to be due to an unresolved disagreement between him and the immediate former National Chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
The APC and one of its stalwarts, Mr. Edobor Williams, in the suit marked FHC/B/CS/74/2020, specifically prayed the court for an order disqualifying Obaseki from contesting the September 19 governorship election in Edo State on the grounds that he supplied false information on oath to INEC, an act said to be contrary to Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
The suit, which was filed on July 14, 2020 at the Benin Division of the Federal High Court, suffered some setbacks before it was set down for hearing early this month by Justice Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
At the November 4 sitting, Akin Olujimi (SAN), lead counsel to the plaintiffs, had requested the judge to adjourned the suit for hearing shortly after it was mentioned, adding that there is little time left for hearing going by provisions of the law.
The PDP and INEC are the other respondents in the suit.
While Chief Ken Mozia (SAN) and Mr. Rasaq Isenalumhe announced appearance for Obaseki and PDP respectively, there was no representation for INEC.
Responding, Obaseki’s lawyer, Mozia, who stated that he was not objecting to the request for adjournment drew the court’s attention to a motion on notice he filed challenging the competence of some processes contained in the processes filed by the APC.
Following the absence of any objection to hearing of the suit, Justice Mohammed said he was inclined to give speedy hearing in the matter because of the constraint of time.
Before granting the request the judge however, reminded parties in the matter that the suit was filed on July 14 and being a pre-election matter, has a life span of 180 days and so will terminate in January next year.
He then urged lawyers to cooperate with the court so that the matter could be determined before the expiry date.
He further stressed that since both parties would have to call witnesses to give evidence with regards to the disputed issues, they must be mindful of the life span of the matter.
He subsequently adjourned the matter to November 16, 17 and 18 for the plaintiffs to open and close their case while Obaseki would do same thereafter.
The plaintiffs in the writ of summons specifically accused the governor of forging his university certificate presented to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election in Edo State.
They also claimed that there are discrepancies in the subject Obaseki claimed he passed in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) exam and that in his testimonial.
Consequently, they want the court to declare that Obaseki’s claim in his INEC form EC9 at column C, sworn to on June 29, 2020 at the Federal Capital Territory High Court Registry to the effect that he obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1979, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classical Studies is false and contrary to Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
They also want the court to declare that Obaseki lied on oath when he swore to an affidavit on June 29, 2020 that he worked in Afrinvest Limited from 1994 to 2014 when he retired.
“A declaration that the 1st defendant is disqualified from contesting election to the office of Governor of Edo State for non-fulfillment of the constitutional requirement in section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution of Nigeria and upon presenting false/forged certificate to INEC contrary to Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010”.
Plaintiffs also urged the court to declare that the PDP, “having sponsored a candidate who supplied false information on oath and presented false/forged certificates to INEC is not entitled to participate in the election scheduled for September 19 or on any other date that may be appointed for the purpose”.
They therefore prayed the court for an order disqualifying Obaseki and the PDP from the September 19 governorship election as well as an order directing INEC to remove the name of the PDP and its candidate from the ballot paper or election records or materials.