Alleged certificate forgery: Tribunal admits documents tendered by NYSC against Enugu governor

*Mbah begins defence of electoral victory

Despite objections by Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Enugu weekend admitted the documents tendered by the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) proving that the discharged certificate submitted by the governor to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the March 18 governorship election in the state did not emanate from it.

The documents were tendered before the court by the Director of Corps Certification of the NYSC, Aliyu Abdul Mohammed, who adopted his written deposition on oath as the first witness for the governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP), Chijioke Edeoga.

Edeoga and his party, LP, had commenced their evidence against the declaration of Mbah as the governor of Enugu State at the resumed hearing Friday by presenting the NYSC as their first witness.

Among the documents tendered by the NYSC are the alleged forged discharge certificate, as well as the original discharge certificate which Mbah ought to have collected.

The Corps also presented a letter written by Oma and Partners, an Abuja-based law firm, which had asked the NYSC to scrutinise the discharge certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) by the governor. 

Edeoga and LP, represented by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, who is the lead counsel, alongside Dr. Valerie Azinge, SAN, Ifeanyi Ogenyi Esq, and others, led the NYSC director in evidence. 

Awomolo sought to tender the witness’s deposition on oath as evidence before the tribunal. 

However, the PDP, through its counsel, Barr Anthony Ani, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the document and opted to move a motion dated and filed on the 7th day of July 2023.

The PDP’s motion sought to to pray the tribunal to strike out the written NYSC’s deposition on oath on the ground of incompetence. 

Also, INEC and Peter Mbah through their counsel aligned themselves with the submission of Ani and prayed the court to strike out the written deposition of Mohammed (PW1) for lack of competence. 

Relying on the Court of Appeal decision in the case of ANDP & anor V INEC as well as that of Damina & anor V Adamu and ors, the respondents’ counsel asked the court to strike out the written deposition on oath of the PW1 for lack of competence. 

In response the petitioners’ lawyers relying on the case of Ararume & anor V INEC, which according to them, is a conflicting decision with the authorities cited by the respondents’ counsel, asked the court to admit the written deposition on oath of the PW1. 

In a short ruling, the tribunal admitted the document and reserved ruling on the objections raised by the respondents for final judgement.

The PW1 was then taken in for examination-in-chief. 

Mohammed told the tribunal that he acted on a subpoena served on the Director General of the NYSC or any other official to appear before the tribunal for the purposes of giving evidence in order to clear some issues bothering on the certificate purportedly issued by the agency. 

The subpoena was admitted in evidence without objection from the respondents and was marked as exhibit PTC/01/06. 

Mohammed also tendered his official identity card as a staff of NYSC which was admitted in evidence and marked as exhibit PTC/01/07. 

In paragraph three (3) of the Petitioners’ Witness’s deposition on oath, the witness stated that in obedience to the subpoena by the tribunal, he came with the authentic discharge certificate of the governor, as well as the one purportedly given to him. 

The respondents’ counsel objected to the admissibility of the documents and reserved their reasons for final written addresses. 

The tribunal admitted the documents and marked them as exhibits PTC/ 01/08 a and b.

The Petitioners also fielded another witness, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mary Nneoma Elijah, a principal partner in the law firm of Oma and Partners. 

She is the Petitioners’ Witness 2. 

The Petitioners’ counsel sought to tender her written deposition on oath as evidence, which was objected to by the respondents’ counsel, citing the same grounds raised in the first stage. 

The court admitted the document and reserved the ruling during judgement. 

She also adopted the subpoena of the tribunal dated 21st day of June, 2023, which was admitted and marked as exhibit PTC/01/09.

The witness’s letter to INEC, as well as the reply given by INEC was sought to be tendered by the petitioners’ counsel amid objections from the respondents’ counsel. 

However, the letters, as well as the discharged certificate were admitted and marked as exhibits PTC/01/11 a, b & c respectively. 

Also, a letter addressed to the presiding justice of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, for the production of the appointment letter dated 14 July 2003, appointing Barr. Peter Mbah as the Chief of Staff to the then governor of Enugu state, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani in the same year he (Mbah) claimed he was serving, also admitted in evidence amidst objections and marked as exhibit PTC/01/13 a&b.

During cross examination, the 1st respondent’s counsel, Mr. Abdul Mohammed, applying for the subpoena, asked “confirm to this tribunal that the subpoena did not ask you about anything at the Federal High court”. 

In response, PW2 said ” True”. 

Mr. Abdul Mohammed further asked the PW2: “Confirm to this tribunal that you have given to the petitioners the contents of these letters at the time they were preparing this petition”. 

In reply, the PW2 said, “It’s false, the letters are public documents which are in the public domain. Anybody can ask for the letters and they will be given to him.

The matter was adjourned to Tuesday, 11 July, 2023 for further hearing.

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