The National Assembly Election Tribunal in Uyo presided over by a Lagos State High Court judge, Hon. Justice Kudirat Jose, was a near drama theatre when hearing resumed in the case between Hon. Eseme Eyiboh of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Hon. Okpolump Etteh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as more revelations were made on how Etteh allegedly obtained Ordinary National Diploma (OND) certificate in a non existing private polytechnic in Aba in 1992 before getting his West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) certificate in 2002.
The first drama of the day was that the 1st respondent – Hon. Etteh was to open his defense after the petitioner Hon. Eyiboh had closed his case on Monday, but he conspicuously failed to appear before the tribunal despite the fact that he had earlier said he will testify and defend himself as the only witness.
Testifying before the tribunal, one Ozemene Goodluck James who claimed that he is the Registrar of Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba (formerly School of Management Technology), presented documents letter, attestation letter, admission form, result after completion of the programme, ND certificate, application he wrote to get the certificate to back up his claim that Etteh attended the school.
However, under cross examination by counsel to the petitioner, Uyo-obong Jumbo Udom, James admitted that Etteh gained admission into the Polytechnic in 1990 two years after his Primary School (FSLC) certificate in 1988. He also admitted before the tribunal that Etteh got WAEC in 2002, 10 years after he got his National Diploma.
On further cross examination on the status of Etteh’s claimed institution that awarded the National Diploma he filed with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it was revealed that the institution is not only unaccredited by National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), but not in existence and unaccredited not also on the list of accredited Polytechnics by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).Till date, neither School of Management Technology nor the later claimed Temple Gate Polytechnic is found in the list of accredited institution.
Efforts by the 2nd respondent (PDP) to confer legitimacy on the institution in tendering their governing council attendance register was disallowed and objected by the tribunal.
In another testimony at the tribunal by a second witness and Deputy Registrar, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, Alexander Anukam, tendered documents that included, IT, letter of admission for HND, certificate in Marketing from Polytechnic Oko, pre-HND results from Oko, statement of results from Institute of Management and Technology, Aba.
However, counsel to the petitioner – Jumbo Udom objected to the documents, noting that there is no admission letter to back up the claim. He also objected to the pre-HND result and submitted that there is no result like that for admission into any tertiary institution in the country, not to talk of a Federal Polytechnic like Oko.
Akaninyene Inyang, Deputy Director of Examination Certification Division, Ministry of Education, Akwa Ibom State, also testified as another witness to the PDP in the case. He tendered before the tribunal, First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) which the ministry issued in 1998 to one Okponette, Okpolump Ikpong after successful participation in the primary school examination as a private candidate. He submitted that the document was not forged.
But when confronted with the FSLC result and the birth certificate as filed before INEC, Inyang was taken unawares and sweating at the witness box as he could not reconcile the inconsistency in both the name on the birth certificate and the name on FSLC issued by his institution.
The fourth witness from the PDP in the state, Mr. Oku Johnny, who identified himself as an administrative officer, also testified before the tribunal. He admitted submitting the disputed documents to INEC.
It would be recalled that the National Board for Technical Education on Monday denied the existence of the School of Management and Technology, Aba.
It would equally be recalled that the petitioner, Eyiboh, approached the tribunal that Etteh presented forged certificates to INEC, thus making him unqualified to have contested the election for Eket Federal Constituency seat. Eyiboh’s petition is premised on the single ground of eligibility.
On Monday during the resume hearing, Eyiboh subpoenaed the NBTE, an agency empowered to approve, regulate, accredit and sanction Polytechnics, Monotechnics and related institutions.
The NBTE was represented by its Director of Legal, Rekiya Shuaibu, who confirmed the non-existence of the school that issued Etteh the diploma certificate.
Meanwhile, Gyang Dung who represented the Independent National Electoral Commission also tendered the disputed certificates that were submitted by Etteh to INEC.
The testimonies set the stage for the star witness, Eyiboh who entered the witness box to adopt his witness’ statement on oath and reply to Etteh’s response.
Etteh’s counsel, Ekpenyong Ntekim met a resilient and sharp witness in Eyiboh.
In the face of a barrage of questions from INEC and PDP lawyers, Eyiboh remained resolute, consistent and vehement in pursuit of his claims.
Curiously, public commentators are yet to unravel the reasons Etteh was absent in court and declined to enter defence and defend himself of the weighty allegations bordering on forgeries with preponderance of strong evidence.
The tribunal headed by Hon. Jose with Hon. Justice Philomena Nweke and Hon. Justice Mua’zu Abubakar as members adjourned for exchange of briefs of arguments.