Court nullifies Benue Rep-elect victory over certificate forgery, orders prosecution
FOR alleged certificate forgery, a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to invalidate the Certificate of Return issued to a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Christian Abah, for the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, delivering judgment in the suit challenging Abah’s eligibility to stand for the election, held that the allegation of certificate forgery brought against him by the plaintiff, Mr. Hassan Saleh, had been successfully proven.
Abah was said to have allegedly forged an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) certificate in Accountancy, which Abah deposed to have purportedly obtained in 1985 from the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Plateau State.
The Judge said his findings showed that an earlier judgment of the National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi delivered on September 6, 2011, and a letter by the Registrar of the polytechnic, Mr. Suleiman Buba, affirmed that the certificate presented by Abah to INEC was forged.
Consequently, the court ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to immediately commence prosecution of Abah for forgery and perjury.
The court also declared Saleh, who came second at the primary, as the winner and candidate of the PDP to the general election. Accordingly, the Judge ordered INEC to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to him.
The court also ordered the in-coming Speaker of the Eight House of Representatives to swear in Saleh as the member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency.
He decried the culture of impunity being promoted by INEC and PDP thus: “the culture of impunity” by their failure to disqualify Abah from participating in the election in view of the court judgment that had since 2011 affirmed that he (Abah) presented a forged certificate for the purpose of standing for an election.”
The court lampooned counsel for PDP and Abah, Mr. S.I. Ameh (SAN), for untoward practice of trying to delay the matter by bringing “frivolous” interlocutory applications to stall hearing.
Justice Ademola, therefore, ordered that the processes filed in the suit and his judgment be served on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee so that sanction is imposed on the SAN as a deterrent to others.
He also imposed a N450,000 fine on the three defendants – the PDP, INEC and Abah in favour of the Nigerian Bar Association.