By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday told the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has cleared the State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo of forging his exemption certificate.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo
NYSC had on Thursday admitted in evidence a letter from the NYSC to the Department of State Security (DSS) admitting that it corrected a spelling error on Ewrhrudakpo’s exemption certificate.
Testifying on Friday, counsel INEC, Mr. Ibrahim Bawa (SAN) told the tribunal that since NYSC that issued the exemption certificate came out to admit that it indeed issued the certificate in dispute, INEC saw no need to call any witness.
Also speaking, Counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Emmanuel Enoedem said all the evidence tendered by the NYSC clearly exonerated Senator Ewhrudjakpo had of any wrongdoing as alleged by the petitioner, Mr Opuamah of the Liberation Movement.
PDP said the evidence Opuama presented before the tribunal supported the position of the Deputy Governor, prompting the party not to call any witness in defence of the petition.
The petitioner, Mr Vijah Opuama, is challenging Ewhrudjakpo’s qualification to stand in the Bayelsa State governorship election, on the grounds that the deputy governor submitted a forged exemption certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election.
“Our candidate, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State has been exonerated of any wrongdoing by the NYSC, which issued him its exemption certificate. So, we don’t have to waste the precious time of the honourable tribunal by calling witnesses to tender documents that have already been presented to the tribunal by the petitioner.
“Clearly, the Deputy Governor has been cleared of the forgery allegation by the relevant authorities in the matter,” the PDP lawyer told journalists at the court premises.
After listening to the submissions of the PDP and the NYSC in the matter, Justice Sirajo adjourned the suit till June 17 for the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Diri Duoye and his Deputy, Senator Ewhrudjakpo to open their defence in the petition.
It would be recalled that the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Ewhrudjakpo on Tuesday picked holes n the certificates of the petitioner and governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement in the last governorship poll in the state, Opuama.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo through his lawyer, Mr. Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), while cross-examining Opuama who testified in his petition challenging the Deputy Governor’s victory in the election, had told the tribunal that there were inconsistencies in the First School Leaving certificate as well as the SSCE and of the petitioner submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
The petitioner, Mr Opuama through his counsel, Mr Pius Danba had on Tuesday closed his case after calling three out of 30 witnesses he had front loaded to testify against the nomination of Ewhrudjakpo for the November 16, 2019, governorship election.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, Upuama who served as 3rd witness, was confronted with discrepancies in his own certificates by Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer, Mr. Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN).
It would be recalled that the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), one of the witnesses who testified on behalf of Upuama had told the tribunal that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) actually effected the change of name on the exemption certificate issued to Ewhrudjakpo.