Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Ahmed Mohammed yesterday adjourned till December 15, to deliver his ruling in a motion by Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, asking him to stay further proceedings in his alleged certificate forgery trial.
Justice Mohammed fixed the date after taking arguments from lawyers representing parties in the suit.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its chieftains, Mr Williams Edobor, had dragged the governor to court, accusing him of forging his Bachelor of Arts Degree certificate he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the last governorship election in Edo State.
But Obaseki had applied to the court to adjourn indefinitely, further proceedings in the matter on the grounds that he had filed an appeal at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, challenging the refusal of Justice Mohammed to expunge some paragraphs in the APC’s reply to his affidavit.
While moving a motion for stay of further proceedings, Obaseki’s lawyer, Ken Mozia, SAN, told the court that the records of proceedings have been transmitted to the Court of Appeal and that the notice of appeal has been entered at the appellate court with appeal number CA/ABJ/CV/1072/2020.
The senior lawyer canvassed that since the decision of the high court refusing to expunge some paragraphs in APC’s reply is being challenged it is a law, for the lower court to hands off from the matter pending the outcome of the appellate court’s decision.
Mozia who cited several authorities in support of his argument insisted that the high court must await the decision of the Court of Appeal before anything could be done in the matter.
However, lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the motion on the grounds that it was a pre-election matter and was bound by time.
Olujimi contended that since the case had a life span of 180 days which would terminate by January 9, 2021, it was in the interest of justice for the court to continue with proceedings.
Responding on points of law, Mozia argued that no provision of the constitution as amended prevents the court from staying further proceedings upon becoming aware of an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
According to Mozia, this is not an election tribunal, neither is it an election petition, the facts in this case are distinguishable from election petition matters.
He urged the court to resist the temptation to continue with hearing in the matter so that it would not be accused of judicial incompetence.
Earlier, Mozia tendered to the court a Certified True Copy (CTC) of a letter which forwarded filed copies of record of appeal with an acknowledgment of receipt, certified true copy of a motion on notice in CA/ABJ/CV/1072/2020 between Godwin Obaseki vs APC and one other.
A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday remanded two lawyers, Sarah Ajibola and John Demide, in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) custody, following their arraignment for allegedly rigging the August 2018 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) national elections.
Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered that they remain with the anti-graft agency for seven days in order to fulfill their bail terms, a failure of which they will be transferred to the custody of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS).
The anti-graft agency claimed that Ajibola, and Demide manipulated the election in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, who was elected 29th NBA President in 2018.
Mr. Usoro polled 4,509 votes to defeat his other contenders, Okafor Obi, and Ernest Ojukwu, who got 4,423 as well as 3,313 votes in the just concluded election.
One of the candidates, Mr. Ojukwu, condemned the election saying it was characterised by fraud.
The agency filed the 14-count charge, marked FHC/L/118c/2020, against the defendant’s last May 5.
EFCC counsel, Mrs Bilikisu Buhari Bala, told the court that the defendants committed the offences in August 2018.
She alleged that they conspired and altered personal details including email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 eligible voters for the elections, with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election.
Some of the voters’ names allegedly falsified were: Gabriel Abijo Oladipo with Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN) No. 043280; Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun with SCN No. 088449; David Anakor SCN No. 015233; Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu, SCN No. 114439 and Bankole
Isaac Toyin with SCN no. 024643.
The two lawyers were alleged to have used a smoke model on IP address 188.8.131.52 to commit the electoral fraud.
The offences, according to the prosecutor, contravened and were punishable under sections 27(1)(b), 13, 22(2), 22(3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.
Ajibola and Demide pleaded not guilty.
Their counsel, N. E. Ogeibe and Deborah Ogundele, prayed the court to admit them to bail “in the most liberal terms.”
He told the court that Ajibola was a senior lawyer of over 15 years, and would neither jump bail nor tamper with evidence for the charge.
In a bench ruling, Justice Obiozor admitted each defendant to bail in the sum of N500, 000 with one surety each.
The judge while adjourned till April 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, and 22, 2021, for trial.