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Birth certificate forgery: Court dismisses suit against Wike

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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday dismissed the suit seeking to disqualify Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State from contesting today’s governorship election.

The suit filed by one Elvis Chinda had accused Wike of alleged birth certificate forgery.

The Court however dismissed the suit while ruling on the preliminary objection filed by Wike and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit.

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While Justice Ekwo agreed with counsel to the defendant that Governor Wike has immunity from being prosecuted under the 1999 Constitution, the judge nevertheless held that the immunity clause does not prevent the governor who presented himself for re- election from being sued on election related matter such as this case. He, however, disagreed with the plaintiff that the suit was not a pre- election matter.

The suit, the judge held, was purely a pre- election matter because the relief sought by plaintiff was seeking to disqualify the second defendant (Governor Nyesom Wike), from contesting an election. Justice Ekwo stated that being a pre-election matter, “the suit is status bar” because it was not commenced “within the 14 days allowed by law.”

According to the judge, the plaintiff position that the cause of action arose (Nov 13, 2018) when he obtained a Certified True Copy of INEC document containing the forged birth certificate “was strange.”

Justice Ekwo said that the cause of action arose when the plaintiff had reasonable ground that Wike submitted forged birth certificate. As at March 7, 2018, when he applied to INEC for the document, he had reasonable ground that the document was forged but not initiated when the cause of action arise, the action is status bar.

The Court also described the suit as an abuse of court process. Justice Ekwo held that the suit was commenced when an appeal filed by the plaintiff lawyer on same matter was pending before the Court of Appeal.

According to him, the action was a professional misconduct. In his judgment on the substantive suit, which was argued alongside the preliminary objection, Justice Ekwo held that the allegation of forgery of Wike’s birth certificate ought to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt. He said that the burden of prove did not shift to the defendants but lied with plaintiff.

“Though the plaintiff tendered a CTC from INEC, he added, there was no payment receipt to show that it is an evidence from the commission.”

The plaintiff had in the originating summons filed by his lawyer, Achinike William-Wobodo, urged the court to determine whether Certificate of Birth (Statutory Declaration of Age) attached to Wike’s Form C.F.001 presented to INEC, purportedly deposed to on October 3, 1986 by one Collins Nyeme Wike from Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State was forged.

He urged the court to grant the reliefs sought because “a document that lied against itself is forged.”

The counsel stated that as at 1986 Obio/Okoor Local Government Area of Rivers State was not in existence because the local government in question was created in 1989 by Decree No 12 of 1989, two years after the alleged forgery was committed.

After the judgment yesterday, William-Wobodo told journalists that his client would appeal the decision while Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) who represented Wike said the judgment vindicated their position.


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