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Gov Diri & his deputy, Ewhrudjakpo cleared of certificate forgery allegations

The plaintiff has failed to prove the allegations of certificate forgery levelled against Ewhrudjakpo beyond reasonable doubt.

Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo [Peoples Gazette]

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a judgment, held that the suit lacked merit as the plaintiff had failed to prove the allegations of certificate forgery levelled against Ewhrudjakpo beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Nwite also awarded a cost of ₦500, 000 against the plaintiff and in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the 3rd defendant in the suit.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports in 2023 that less than nine days before the November 11, 2023, Bayelsa governorship election, a fresh suit seeking Diri and Ewhrudjakpo’s disqualification commenced before Justice Nwite.

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The plaintiff, a Bayelsan woman, Blessing Clement Azibanagbal, through her lawyer, Ifeanyi Nsowu, filed the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1448/23.

In the affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by Yenle Istifanus, a litigation secretary with Compendium Chambers, the lawyer said she knew as a fact that Azibanagbal, who hails from Bayelsa and as a good citizen of Nigeria, had the locus standi (legal right) to institute the action.

The originating summons was dated October 26, 2023, and filed on October 30, 2023. She listed Diri, Ewhrudjakpo, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the 1st to 4th defendants, respectively.

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The suit sought an order of mandatory injunction, directing INEC to remove the names of Diri and Ewhrudjakpo as PDP’s candidates in the November poll.

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It also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC, its agents, privies, or whosoever called, from further publishing their names as standard bearers for the party in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa.

It further sought a declaration that Ewhrudjakpo was not qualified to run as deputy governor under the PDP. It sought a declaration that Ewhrudjakpo was also not qualified to be a running mate with Diri.

Besides, she prayed for the court to declare that Ewhrudjakpo had multiple names without any evidence to prove “that he is the same person.” She, therefore, urged the court to declare that the PDP had no candidate in the poll.

But the PDP, in a notice of preliminary objection dated November 28 and filed November 30 through its lawyer, Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, prayed the court to dismiss or strike out the suit for being statute.

Diri and his deputy also filed their counter affidavit to oppose the application. Delivering the judgment on Monday, Justice Nwite observed that the Exhibits I attached to the affidavit of the plaintiff’s amended originating summons contained among others, documents which included a deed poll for the proper arrangement of Ewhrudjakpo’s name.

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Fair enough, it is the documents exhibited by the plaintiff to prove her case that the 2nd defendant (Ewhrudjakpo)’s certificates have different names, hence he is not qualified on the ground of presentation of false informations,” the judge added.

He, however, held that the Supreme Court had laid to rest the recognised and legal procedure for a valid change of name.

Citing a PDP case Vs Degi, 2021, Justice Nwite held that the apex court had decided that “affidavit of change, correction and confirmation of name has to be by deed poll and not by mere deposition.”

He said in the instant case, it was clear that Ewhrudjakpo had met the requirements for the recognised procedure for the correction of name.

“That is, by making a deed poll and publication in official gazette,” he added.

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He said he agreed with the submission of the learned counsel for Ewhrudjakpo that the plaintiff was bereft of the law and facts on the issue and her allegations are mere speculations and time-wasting assertions intended to embarrass the defendants.

On whether the plaintiff had sufficiently proved her case on the preponderance of evidence and beyond reasonable doubt as required for a criminal allegation of forgery and false information in a civil suit, the judge said “the law is trite that he who asserts must prove.”

According to Justice Nwite, in the instant case, the plaintiff failed to prove her allegations that the certificates presented by the 2nd defendant were the product of forgery.

Also in the instant case, the plaintiff did not prove even on the preponderance let alone beyond reasonable doubt her bogus allegations of forgery and presentation of false information against the 2nd defendant.

“The allegations against the 2nd defendant are criminal and must be proved by the standard required by Section 138 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

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“The one million naira question is was that allegations proved beyond reasonable doubt?

“Given the foregoing analysis, I resolve the issue in favour of the defendants and against the plaintiff.

“In summary, I am of the view and I do hold that the suit lacks merit and sane is hereby dismissed.

“Cost of ₦500, 000 awarded against the plaintiff in favour of the 3rd defendant,” he declared.

NAN reports that INEC had declared Diri the winner of the November 11, 2023, poll after he scored the highest votes to defeat other candidates, including Timipre Sylva of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

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