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Court reserves judgment on lawmakers alleged certificate forgery suit August 23

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Abia State High Court, Umuahia has heard the application, challenging the authenticity of the primary and secondary schools certificates presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by a Federal lawmaker, representing Bende Constituency of the state, Benjamin Kalu of the All Progressive Congress (APC), which statutorily qualified him to contest the 2019 election and reserved judgment to August 23.

One Mr. Okechukwu Ezeala, also of the APC in Bende Constituency, through his counsel, Okey Amechi (SAN), filed the suit with Ref. HU/265/2020.

He urged the Court, to scrutinise the said certificates.

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The APC, INEC and Speaker of the House of Representatives were joined as second, third and fourth respondents in the suit.

The applicant, among others is specifically urging the court to ascertain whether the names as stated in the academic certificates the lawmaker allegedly presented to the INEC, which he claimed bore Okezie and Osisiogu, were those actually earned by respondent.

He wants the court to quash the 1st respondents victory at the poll and declare him as the eligible candidate of the APC to contest the said 2019 election into the House of Representatives.

The applicant had in his affidavit contended that 1st respondent did not submit valid documents to prove that he attended primary and secondary schools on the basis that there is no Benjamin Kalu in both the said primary and secondary schools certificates he allegedly submitted to the INEC.

He stated that the certificates contain incriminating irregularities, such that the names on them are completely different from his current identities.

His lead counsel, Amechi also defended the late filing of the suit, long after the 2019 election, which contravenes the 14 days filing dateline prescribed by the law for pre-election matters.

Counsel for INEC, Mrs. Better Amadi had on the basis of the belated filing, raised preliminary objection to the court entertaining the matter and urged it to dismiss the suit.

But insisting that the suit ought to be entertained by the court, Amechi submitted that going by the Supreme Court verdict, an exception can be allowed if the cause for the belated filing borders on criminal act, like alleged forgery, which is likely in the matter in question.

He therefore urged the court to hold that the certificates Kalu presented to INEC were forged documents procured to qualify him to contest the election.

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But the lead counsel for the 1st defendant, Mr. Kelvin Nwofo (SAN), told the court that the claimant did not state the owner of the certificates, which he said was inconsistent.

According to him, he ought to have done so, because it is trite law that he who alleges must prove same.

He urged the court to declare the certificates presented to INEC by his client as those that legally refer to him.

He argued that for the certificates not to be those of his client, the owner must lay claim on them, adding that the onus is on the claimant to prove same.

Nwofor further submitted that Kalu had owned the certificates and accordingly complied with the provisions of the law and followed the due process by swearing to affidavit of change of name, effecting newspaper publications and having them gazetted.

He consequently urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial costs even as he wondered why an election matter concerning 2019 election is being challenged in 2020.

After listening to parties, the court thereafter fixed judgment on August 23, 2021.

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