The defence witnesses who testified in the ongoing certificate forgery against the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno, have failed to establish that Eno’s certificates are authentic.
Eno was taken to court by Akan Okon, a contestant in the May 25 PDP governorship primary, over allegations that he was parading a forged West African Senior School Certificate Examination certificate in his bid to actualise his governorship ambition.
Okon also joined the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st and 3rd defendants in the case while the governorship candidate is the 2nd defendant.
Copies of Okon and Eno’s final written addresses exclusively obtained by Sahara Reporters revealed that throughout the hearings, none of the defence witnesses established that the former Akwa Ibom commissioner’s certificates are authentic.
Okon, in his final address, told the court that because defence witnesses 1 and 2 were not cross-examined, their oral and documentary evidence failed to meet the threshold of a fair hearing and ought to be expunged.
He added that defence witness 3 tendered a fabricated letter to the court in addition to his incoherent and conflicting testimony.
“We submit that WAEC, contrary to the argument of the Defendants, was called as a witness but it woefully failed to establish the authenticity of the questioned certificates,” Okon said in his written address.
“As aforesaid, the 1st and 2nd Defendants called a total of three witnesses, two on subpoena duces tecum (DWs 1 and 2) and one on subpoena ad testificatum et duces tecum (DW3).
“The 1st and 2nd Defendants pleaded facts in their amended joint statement of defence to counter the allegation of forgery levelled against the 2nd Defendant. In essence, they pleaded that the subject WAEC certificates were genuine and that they have been confirmed as such by WAEC in writing.
“But beyond pleading as aforesaid, the 1st and 2nd Defendants failed to testify to drive home the pleaded facts. The only witness who offered oral testimony in addition to tendering documents was DW3, a policeman.
“In his testimony, he claimed to have written to the Zonal office of WAEC at Ikeja Lagos State, and that the said office replied and said that they never authored the letter sent to AADN regarding the 1983 WAEC certificate.
“He tendered the purported reply of WAEC to the police. Under cross-examination, the DW3 admitted that he signed receipt of the purported letter from WAEC on the 5th of August, 2022, when in fact he said was purportedly written on the 8th of August, 2022,” Okon added.
He further said that throughout the trial, the defence team failed to prove that Eno’s certificates are not forged because of multiple discrepancies.
Okon pointed out that while Eno’s 1981 WAEC General Certificate for Education (GCE) confirmation letter indicated that Eno took examinations for six subjects at Victory High School I, Ikeja, the school leaving certificate and testimonial from Victory High School II, Ikeja, indicated Eno took WASSCE and not GCE with eight subjects recorded.
“It is based on the above-rehashed facts, the Plaintiff is urging your Lordship to hold that the 2nd Defendant presented forged 1981 and 1983 WAEC GCE certificates to the 1st Defendant as the basis for his nomination as the 1st Defendant’s flagbearer and in breach of the 1st Defendant’s guidelines for the conduct of primaries, as well as Section 182(1) (j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” Okon said.
During the trial, the Plaintiff Okon, while being cross-examined by Paul Usoro, raised the alarm that the photocopy of Eno’s certificate presented to him was different from the one that was tendered the previous day.
He observed that there was a pagination “2/2” inscribed at the bottom strip of the 1981 certificate and “1/2” also inscribed at the bottom strip of the 1983 certificate, which were trimmed off.
“My Lord, this is not what I saw yesterday, the photocopy is not complete. Please ask them to bring the original certificate they presented yesterday. The copy they tendered yesterday had pagination. The photocopy that was admitted yesterday is different from this one they are presenting to me,” Okon said.
When the Judge directed the court clerk to bring the photocopy of the certificate tendered the previous day by Eno, which was presented to Okon, he (Okon) drew the attention of the court to the bottom strip on the photocopy admitted in court the previous day.
It was gathered that some weeks after both parties closed their cases, in clear disregard for the legal procedural approach, Eno filed a fresh application to withdraw evidence that had been adopted in court to pursue technicalities.
The governorship candidate, through the head of his legal team, Usoro filed a fresh preliminary objection on September 30, 2022, re-echoing the same preliminary objection and surreptitiously trying to introduce new evidence with a supporting affidavit.
Eno and other defendants had through their legal representatives filed an amended joint statement of defence on September 7, 2022, and elaborately argued their threshold objection, only to repeat the same in the motion of September 30, 2022.
In the preliminary objection filed on September 30, 2022, Umo argued that because Okon is allegedly challenging the failure of the Governorship Screening Committee to properly screen the 2nd defendant, Eno, his suit is statute-barred as the screening exercise allegedly took place on April 26, 2022, a fact which was neither pleaded nor led in evidence by any of the parties.
However, Okon, through his lawyer, Okey Amaechi (SAN), argued that the court cannot go outside the plaintiff’s writ of summons and statement of claims in determining whether or not it has the jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s suit.
He submitted that the fundamental principle of law is that the claims of the plaintiff should determine the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.
Okon urged the court to discountenance the new and nonessential facts which are neither brought out in the plaintiff’s writ of summons, a statement of claims before the court nor the evidence adduced by the parties at the trial.
Amaechi, while adopting his written address in the court, insisted that the suit filed by Mr. Akan Okon was filed in due compliance with the applicable commencement of actions under the provisions of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) rule, 2019, applicable as of June 7, 2022, long before the commencement of the Federal High Court (pre-election) Practice Direction, 2022 which only came into effect on June 28, 2022.
He said on that note, the law is however settled that rule of practice and procedure cannot be applied retrospectively.
Amaechi told the court that the defendants in their written addresses had laboured strenuously to rope the plaintiff’s suit outside the precinct of the pre-election matter, and into the ambit of the alleged challenge to screening by the governorship screening committee of the 1st defendant, being the PDP.
The plaintiff’s counsel, therefore, submitted that the suit is competent as Akan Okon duly exhausted all internal remedies of the 1st defendant as stipulated in its electoral guidelines as applicable to the complaint without any form of redress or accompanying response from the 1st defendant, the PDP.
Okon told the court that having established his case beyond reasonable doubt and on the established standard of proof, the court should nullify the purported nomination of Eno as the governorship candidate of the PDP.
He ordered that he (Okon) should be substituted as the candidate of the PDP, having come second in the election held by the party.
The case was adjourned to on or before November 28, 2022, for judgment.