On Friday, the Labour Party (LP) continued to defend its petition against Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State at the Election Tribunal. The LP called the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as its first witness to support their claim of certificate forgery against the governor.
During the hearing, the NYSC presented several documents, including the alleged forged discharge certificate used by Mbah and the original discharge certificate he should have obtained. Additionally, a letter from Oma and Partners, an Abuja-based law firm, requesting the NYSC to verify the governor’s discharge certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also presented as evidence.
Represented by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, leading Dr. Valerie Azinge, SAN, Ifeanyi Ogenyi Esq, and others, the petitioners presented the witness, Director of Certification at the NYSC, Aliyu Abdul Mohammed, who affirmed the contents of his written deposition under oath, which was admitted as evidence by the tribunal.
However, the counsel for the third respondent, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Barr Anthony Ani, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the document. He submitted a motion seeking to strike out the written deposition on the grounds of incompetence. The first respondent, INEC, and the second respondent, Peter Mbah, supported Ani’s submission.
The respondents relied on previous court decisions, including ANDP & anor V INEC and Damina & anor V Adamu and ors, to argue for excluding the written deposition on the grounds of incompetence. In response, the petitioners’ lawyers cited the conflicting decision in the case of Ararume & Anor V INEC and requested the court to admit the written deposition on oath of the witness.
After considering the arguments, the tribunal admitted the document and reserved ruling on the objections raised by the respondents for the final judgment.
Mohammed informed the tribunal during his examination-in-chief that he appeared before them in response to a subpoena served on the Director General of the NYSC or any other official. He was present to provide evidence and address concerns related to the certificate allegedly issued by the agency.
The respondents did not object to the admission of the subpoena, which was marked as exhibit PTC/01/06.
Mohammed also submitted his official identity card as an NYSC staff, which was admitted as evidence and marked as exhibit PTC/01/07.
According to paragraph three (3) of the witness’s deposition on oath, he brought both the governor’s authentic discharge certificate and the one allegedly given to him in compliance with the tribunal’s subpoena.
The respondent’s counsel objected to the admissibility of the documents and stated that they would present their reasons in the final written addresses.
However, the tribunal admitted the documents and marked them as exhibits PTC/01/08 a and b.
The petitioners then called another witness, Mary Nneoma Elijah, a principal partner in the Oma and Partners law firm based in Abuja. She is referred to as Petitioners’ Witness 2.
The petitioners’ counsel attempted to submit her written deposition on oath as evidence, but the respondents’ counsel objected on the same grounds as before.
Nevertheless, the court admitted the document and reserved its ruling for the judgment.
Elijah also confirmed the subpoena issued by the tribunal on June 21, 2023, which was admitted and marked as exhibit PTC/01/09.
The petitioners’ counsel sought to tender the witness’s letter to INEC, as well as the reply from INEC. The respondents’ counsel raised objections.
However, the letters and the discharge certificate were admitted and marked as exhibits PTC/01/11 a, b & c, respectively.
Additionally, a letter addressed to the presiding justice of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, requesting the production of the appointment letter dated July 14, 2003, appointing Barr. Peter Mbah as Chief of Staff to the then-governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, in the same year Mbah claimed to be serving, was admitted as evidence amidst objections and marked as exhibit PTC/01/13 a&b.
The proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday, July 11, 2023, for further hearing.