Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Bayelsa State governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja was on Monday told that investigation by the Department of State Service (DSS) confirmed that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate issued to the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo has been indeed altered.
The revelation came after the three-man tribunal had in an early ruling stopped the Libration Movement (LM) from joining in the petition challenging the outcome of the governorship election in the state.
A subpoened witness and Head of Legal Department of the DSS, Abdulsalam Ibrahim told the tribunal that the findings of the service was sequel to a court order directing it to investigate allegations of certificate forgery against the deputy governor, Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim who represented the Director General of DSS told the tribunal that it’s findings was based on a thorough investigation carried out on the matter.
In the petition before the tribunal, the candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa, Vijah Opuama had alleged that Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged exemption certificate and documents that contain false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election.
Testifying before the tribunal, Ibrahim who was led by petitioner’s counsel, Pius Danbe Pius, said: “My lord, on the 22nd of February 2020, we received a letter from an Area Court in Lugbe, Abuja asking the DSS to investigate the NYSC exemption certificate of Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the present Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.”
He added that during the conduct of it’s investigation, the service reached out to the NYSC.
According to his evidence, the DG, NYSC wrote to the DG, DSS confirming alteration in the surname in the exemption certificate issued Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim however explained that the alteration was done by the NYSC at the instance of Ewhrudjakpo.
Counsel to the petitioner later tendered a copy of the subpoena, a copy of the letter from the Area Court and two investigation reports dated May 27 and 28, 2020, including an annexture from the NYSC, through the witness.
The tendering of the documents were not opposed to by the respondents’ counsel, including Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), Chris Uche (SAN) and Chukwuma Machwkwu Umeh (SAN).
Accordingly, the tribunal admitted them and marked them Exhibits P1, P2, P3 and P4.
The witness with the permission of the tribunal read out the concluding part of the investigation report thus: “Based on the foregoing and the relevant documents forwarded to this service, it is evident that the subject altered the spelling of his surname to reflect the letter D as against the letter O in the certificate of exception earlier issued by NYSC.”
Under cross-examination by lawyer to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emmanuel Enoidem, Ibrahim confirmed that the alteration in the certificate was effected by the NYSC.
The witness agreed with Enoidem that it is the bearer of a name that knows how best to spell his/her name.
Under cross-exemination by Chris Uche (SAN), lawyer to Duoye Diri (the Bayelsa State Governor), the witness said the alteration was done by the NYSC upon the request by Ewhrudjakpo.
Uche later asked the witness to read paragraph 7 of a document marked “P3” (one of the reports the investigation by the DSS), which Ibrahim read,thus: “it is based on this recent finding, that we wish to bring to the notice of the DSS that we (the NYSC) corrected the certificate of exemption to read Ewhrudjakpo. Only the last letter A was corrected to read letter O.”
When asked to identify an attachment to the report, the witness identified it as “Annexture 2,” which he explained “is a letter to the NYSC seeking a request for correction, following which the correction was now made.”
At the conclusion of the witness’ testimony, Pius said his next witness is Ewhrudjakpo, who he said has been subpoenaed to produce the original copy of the certificate of exemption.
Pius said, by his case plan, the Deputy Governor was the next appropriate witness for the petitioner.
The tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo adjourned till Tuesday (June 2) for the hearing of a motion by Ewhrudjakpo, challenging his invitation as the petitioner’s witness.