*Petitioner abandons forgery allegations
By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo has said miscreants were bent on tarnishing his hard earned reputation.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo had appeared on Thursday before the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja to testify over allegations of certificate forgery that was levelled against him by the governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the last governorship poll in the state.
The tribunal had ordered that the Deputy Governor appear before it on Thursday to produce the original copy of his disputed certificate.
The tribunal’s order was in furtherance of a subpoena earlier issued on Ewhrudjakpo to appear and produce the original of the exemption certificate issued to him in 1998 by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The subpoena was issued on the request by the candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa, Vijah Opuama, who is challenging Ewhrudjakpo’s qualification to stand election, alleging that he (Ewhrudjakpo) submitted a forged exemption certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election.
However, at Thursday’s proceedings, Opuama’s lawyer, Mr. Pius Danba Pius, pleaded with the three-man tribunal to withdraw his subpoena on the Deputy Governor, who was already seated at the tribunal to mount the witness box for his testimony.
“We are sorry for bringing him (Deputy Gov) to court on a subpoena that was not intended.
I equally apologise to the inner Bar and indeed the bench. As no human is above making error,” Opuama’s lawyer pleaded.
Irked by the petitioner’s application to withdraw the subpoena, the Deputy Governor’s lead counsel, Mr. Chukwuma-Machukuw Ume (SAN), described the request as the “worst application ever before a court.”
He lamented that the LM governorship candidate exposed the Deputy Governor to danger by pulling him out of Bayelsa State despite his client’s busy schedules and the ban on interstate travels by the Federal Government as a result of the devastating coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria.
While reacting to the subpoena withdraw by the petitioner, Governor Diri Douye who is the 3rd defendant in the petition, through his lead lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), described the application as a “very despicable act on the part of the petitioner.”
“This is very worrisome as the highest form of abuse of court process.
This order involved a warrant signed by the Chairman of the tribunal compelling the Deputy Governor to court.
On two occasions, we were held to ransom that the proceedings would not go on until the Deputy Governor comes to court to testify as witness.
“It is my submission that it is not a mistake by the petitioner but a clear case of disrespect for the tribunal that has failed.
The petitioner has subjected the Deputy Governor to very serious ordeal, to risk and hardship.
“To further demonstrate the bad faith of the petitioner, he couldn’t even put a call through to the Deputy Governor’s lawyer to ask his client not to come to tribunal.
There must be consequences for the petitioner to attempt to dribble the tribunal.
“We urge the tribunal to take notice of this attitude of the petitioner in the course of these proceedings,” Uche said.
Subsequently, in a short ruling, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo held that “the tribunal cannot dictate to a party how to conduct his case”, and dismissed the subpoena application without cost.
Meanwhile, addressing journalists at the tribunal promises, the Deputy Governor lamented that some individuals were out tarnish his hard earned reputation.
“It is unfortunate that a few individuals are determined to tarnish my hard earned reputation. And it is equally disheartening that the Department of State Services (DSS) is being dragged into this dirty politics.
” But I have nothing to hide; my credentials are clean and intact. And that is why I have come to the tribunal today (Thursday) to clear my name, only for the petitioner to withdraw his allegations. It’s sad, but as a government, we determined to give our best to the great people of Bayelsa State,” the visibly angry Deputy Governor said while displaying his certificates to the press.