*Tribunal fails to call Varsity as witness
By Chuks Akunna, Executive-Director (Business Development)
There is disquiet in the State Security Service (SSS) over concerns that some senior officers may have compromised an investigation into the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate of the Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.
Abdulsalam Ibrahim, head, legal department of the SSS last week told the Bayelsa State Elections Petition sitting in Abuja that the deputy governor’s NYSC exemption certificate was “altered” by NYSC, but at the instance of the owner.
This is as it emerged that officials of Rivers State University of Science and Technology have spent over a week in Abuja, waiting to be called upon by the tribunal to testify if three of its certificates presented by the deputy governor are genuine.
The university officials told The AUTHORITY that they are considering returning to Port Harcourt “since the tribunal no longer appears interested in our testimony.”
The SSS officer said his agency investigated the deputy governor’s documents based on an order last February by an Abuja Area Court.
The AUTHORITY gathered that from February 22, 2020 when SSS got the court order to probe the certificate, and last Thursday when they testified, no attempt was made to reach the deputy governor for confirmation or denial of the certificate.
Two days after receiving the court order, the SSS wrote NYSC requesting detailed information on the certificate.
On March 10, 2020, the NYSC Director-General, Brig-General Shuaibu Ibrahim responded. He told the SSS that, according to their records, Deputy Governor Ewhrudjakpo complained that his surname was misspelled and demanded that the mistake be corrected.
“Accordingly, his request for the correction was therefore granted and duly effected in the Scheme’s database and on the original Certificate of Exemption No. 139708,” replied General Ibrahim, stressing, “It was a minor error which does not require the replacement of the certificate.”
However, certain SSS officers who spoke with The AUTHORITY said it was improper for their head of legal services to have gone to an open court to testify in such a politically-charged matter.
“To worsen matters, our Director of Legal Services used words like alteration instead of correction. This led a section of the media and the public to think that the certificate was forged.
“The loyalty of the SSS is to the Constitution, not to any political party or person. That was why when, in 2004, President Obasanjo ordered the withdrawal of security protection for Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra, all the SSS details attached to Ngige remained,” said the official.
He added that it was procedurally and morally wrong for the court to have asked its officers to investigate a certificate that they didn’t issue.
“If NYSC had been scraped with no official or office to contact, then a court can mandate a security agency to investigate a document purportedly issued by the defunct organisation. The tribunal had issued a subpoena on the deputy governor, questionable as it may seem. It invited NYSC and the university attended. What then was the SSS expected to come and do?” he quizzed.
“Even at that, if you look up the Act setting up the SSS, there’s no where we were given the powers to investigate the authenticity of documents. Forensics are the primary responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force. SSS primarily deals with internal security, counterterrorism, and VIP protection,” he declared, adding, “We all saw how the deputy governor personally appeared and embarrassed us.”