By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), on Monday said the typographical error on the discharge certificate of the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo was caused by the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja had subpoenaed the DSS boss to testify in an alleged certificate forgery petition lodged by the Liberation Movement Governorship Candidate, Vijah Opuma, against the Deputy Governor.
At Monday’s proceedings of the tribunal, the DSS boss who was represented by the secret service’s Director of Legal Department, Mr. Abdulsalam Ibrahim, told the three-man panel of justices that the alteration to the Deputy Governor’s surname was at the instance of Senator Ewhrudjakpo, who had complained of the error in his name on the NYSC discharge certificate.
In a cross-examination by Mr. Emmanuel Enoedem, counsel to the PDP, the DSS operative said: “A request was made by the Deputy Governor (Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo) to the NYSC, asking that the typographical error in his name on the NYSC discharge certificate be corrected, which was done.”
According to Mr. Ibrahim, the DSS instituted the investigation into the Deputy Governor’s certificate forgery allegation following an order of the Grade 1 Area Court at Lugbe in Abuja.
While being cross-examined Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), the DSS witness informed the tribunal that it was within the Deputy Governor’s constitutional right to demand for a correction of his name.
Earlier, counsel to the petitioner, Mr. Pius Danba Pius led the DSS operative in his evidence in chief, in which the service tendered a report of its investigation into the forgery allegation against the Bayelsa State Deputy Governor.
The witness disclosed that in the course of their investigation, the DSS boss wrote the Director-General of the NYSC to furnish the department with details of the Deputy Governor’s certificate.
Meanwhile, the tribunal on Monday dismissed an application by Liberation Movement, seeking to be joined as a co-petitioner in a petition challenging the outcome of the November 16, 2019 poll in the state.
The party’s governorship candidate in the election, Vijah Opuma, had filed the petition on February 20, 2020 without joining the party as a co-petitioner.
He had filed the petition barely two weeks after the Independent National Electoral Commission deregistered LM on February 6, 2020.
In opposing the application, Ewhrudjakpo, through his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), asked the tribunal to dismiss LM application for joinder.
In its ruling on Monday, the three-member tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Sirajo, upheld Ume’s opposition and dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
Delivering the lead ruling, Justice Sirajo held that there was no justification for the party to file the application to join the petition 74 days after it was filed by its governorship candidate in the election.
The judge also held that the excuse by LM that it did not join the petition from the outset because it was as of the time deregistered by INEC and only sought to be joined after the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped its deregistration ,was not tenable.
Justice Sirajo ruled that contrary to the party’s claim, the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on February 17, 2020 and cited by the applicant did not restrain INEC from deregistring LM, but only restrained the electoral body from deregistering the 33 political parties who were the plaintiffs in the case.
“Despite the damaging counter-affidavit to the application for joinder, there was no better or further affidavit,” Justice Cirajo held.
He ruled that “the inevitable conclusion is that the application lacks merit, and it is hereby dismissed”.
Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer, Ume, had maintained that LM’s application “is misleading” by “pretending” that the party was one of 33 political parties who initiated the Federal High Court suit and obtained the judgment restraining INEC from deregistering them.
“The applicant is rather insulting the intelligence of the honourable tribunal by deposing to falsehood,” the counter-affidavit read in part.
It added that “the applicant is merely engaging in half-baked after-thought”, adding that “the application amounts to amending the parties to the petition and same is too late in the day”.
“That the absence of the said political party that sponsored the petitioner was fatal to the petition has been duly raised in a preliminary objection which the petition responded, processes adopted and ruling reserved,” the Deputy Governor’s lawyer argued.
He also stated, “That the acknowledgement of the applicant at this late hour that the applicant is a necessary party shows that its absence renders the petition invalid as earlier pointed out by the fourth respondent.”
The respondents to the petition are INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party and Governor Douye Diri.