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.
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
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
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.