The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo has appeared before the State’s Electoral Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, to defend the allegations of certificate forgery brought against him by the governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement, LM, in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state, Mr Vijah Opuama.
His appearance was in response to a subpoena order on him by the Tribunal to appear before it and present the original of his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and exemption certificate.
Immediately the deputy governor’s appearance was announced to the tribunal, Counsel to the Petitioner, Mr Pious Dande got up and argued that he was no longer needed as a witness of the petitioner.
He withdrew the subpoena upon which the deputy governor was ordered to appear before the tribunal.
“I would like to apologise to the witness for bringing him all the way from Yenagoa to court on a subpoena that was never intended,” he said.
Counsel to the governor of the state, Chief Chris Uche SAN, argued that the development was “a deliberate act of disrespect and the highest form of abuse of court process”.
Counsel to the defendant, Chief Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume SAN, on his part prayed the tribunal to compel the petitioner to proceed to question the deputy governor on his allegations or in the alternative, award a consequential cost of N5 million against the petitioners.
In a short ruling, the Chairman of a three man panel, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo held that the tribunal would not dictate to a party how to conduct his case and therefore dismissed the subpoena application without cost.
Mr. Opuama, is challenging Senator Ewhrudjakpo’s qualification as deputy governor of Bayelsa state, on the grounds that the deputy governor submitted a forged exemption certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before the election.
Speaking to journalists after the court session, Senator Ewhrudjakpo described the petitioner as one with intents to malign him.
“I have come here to prove to the whole world that my certificates are intact, authentic and I have never altered any document”.
“You don’t expect a deputy governor to leave his state to come here only for you to have a rethink. This shows that the petition as we have always maintained is not only frivolous, deceitful, but it is being sponsored by some persons who don’t want Bayelsa to progress.”
Also reacting, the Mr. Opuama insisted that the Deputy Governor’s exemption letter was altered.
“The position of the Deputy Governor requires somebody with the highest form of integrity and we cannot continue to have people whose integrity is questionable to be our leader”.
The matter has been adjourned until the 9th of this month for cross examination of the second petitioner’s witness.