The Department of State Service (DSS) confirmed on Monday that its investigation revealed alteration in the exemption certificate issued by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Oborawharievwo Ewhrudjakpo.
The Head, Legal Department, DSS, Abdulsalam Ibrahim, who represented DSS’ Director General, told the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal in Abuja that his agency was ordered by an Abuja court to investigate allegation of certificate forgery against Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim was at the tribunal to tender documents and testify for the petitioner upon a subpoena issued on the DG, DSS by the tribunal.
The candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa, Vijah Opuama had petitioned the tribunal, alleging that Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged exemption certificate and documents that contain false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election.
Ibrahim, led in evidence by petitioner’s lawyer, 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 said his agency conducted investigation by reaching out to the NYSC. He said the DG, NYSC wrote to the DG, DSS confirming alteration in the surname in the exemption certificate issued Ewhrudjakpo.
Ibrahim however told the tribunal that the alteration was done by the NYSC at the instance of Ewhrudjakpo.
The petitioner’s lawyer 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.
Respondents’ lawyers, including Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), Chris Uche (SAN) and Chukwuma Machwkwu Umeh did not object to the tendering of the documents, following which the tribunal admitted them and marked them Exhibits P1, P2, P3 and P4.
Upon a request by Pius, Ibrahim read the conclusion of the report of the investigation conducted by his agency, which the tribunal had admitted in evidence.
The conclusion of the report, as read out by Ibrahim, went 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.
Earlier the tribunal in a ruling, rejected an application by LM to be made a party in the case.
Justice Sirajo upheld the arguments of the respondents, to the effect that the party failed to justify why it filed the application late.
Justice Sirajo held that there was no exceptional circumstances to warrant the granting of the applicant’s request to have its application heard outside the tribunal’s pre-hearing session.
He noted that the time for the hearing of such application has elapsed, with the applicant not being able to justify why it delayed in seeking to be made a party in a petition filed by its candidate.