Senate seat: Uzoh seeks to re-enact Umeh versus Ekwunife saga
• Insists Ubah forged certificate
Nearly three years after the former national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, displaced Senator Uche Lilly Ekwunife for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat through a controversial Appeal Court ruling, another Anambra politician, Dr. Obinna Uzor, is making frantic efforts to replace Senator Ifeanyi Ubah as the representative of Anambra South Senatorial District.
Uzoh, a philanthropist and politician, insists Ubah presented a forged National Examination Commission (NECO) certificate, arguing that the lone senator on the platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP) was not qualified to contest the senatorial election.
Senator Ubah claims that he was not afforded the right to a fair hearing before an Abuja Federal High Court sacked him from the Senate, contending that he was not served with the originating process or hearing notice of the suit.
The YPP Senator has also obtained a stay of action and filed an appeal, in which he argued through his counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, that “the trial court erred in law by refusing to set aside its judgment in Suit No; FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 by striking out Motion No: 1631/2019 on the grounds that the court processes in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 were served on the Appellant and therefore occasioned a miscarriage of justice.”
Furthermore, in a bid to clarify its position on the disputed certificate, NECO wrote YPP explaining that although Ubah offered eight subjects, only seven subjects were listed on the certificate in line with the tradition of the examination body that failed subjects are not included on result certificates.
However, Uzoh maintains that he has irrefutable proof that the NECO school certificate that Ubah tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forged, despite the so-called clarifications from the examination council after he was sacked by the court.
Uzoh, who is the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, in the suit he filed at the Kubwa area branch of the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), accused the first and second defendants, Ubah and YPP respectively, of presenting a forged NECO certificate to INEC in contravention of the constitution and INEC’s regulations.
While ruling on the matter, Justice Bello Kawu nullified Ubah’s election as the senator representing Anambra South, saying he stands disqualified for allegedly using a forged NECO certificate to contest the senatorial poll on February 28, 2019. INEC was also ordered to withdraw the certificate of return it issued Ubah and issue a fresh certificate of return to Uzoh, the candidate with the next highest votes cast during the election as the Senator-elect for Anambra South Senatorial District.
When Senator Ubah sought to have the Federal High Court headed by Justice Kawu to set aside the judgment on grounds of lack of fair hearing, he was overruled, but the court granted his application for a stay of execution. While granting the order, Justice Kawu also restrained the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, from swearing-in the PDP candidate Uzoh, pending the hearing and determination of the motion challenging the verdict, and urged parties to the suit, particularly INEC, to maintain the status quo.
Although NECO has written to the leaders of Senator Ubah’s YPP, pointing out that the certificate issued to the Senator in 2003 was genuine, Uzoh’s supporters maintain that “a closer look at the NECO certificate that Ifeanyi Ubah submitted to INEC and the one NECO has validated shows marked differences of the certificates.”
To begin with, Uzor’s supporters say the serial numbers are different. The initial certificate Ifeanyi Ubah submitted to INEC has serial no 303865920 while the NECO certified copy is 303565920. Curiously, the certificates have different signatures, logos, and even fonts.
A comparison of these two documents glaringly shows differences in signatures, stamp, logo, typeset font and so on. If we take the NECO certificate released by the examination body as Ifeanyi Ubah’s certificate, then the initial one he submitted to INEC would seem to have been forged as declared by the Abuja High Court.
But reacting to the claims, Ubah said his traducers should “certify it and sue NECO to court. They are circulating photo-shopped letter. Let them write to NECO or INEC. Tell them to swear an affidavit to that effect or go to NECO and ask.”
The Senator regretted that after alleging that his certificate was forged, his accusers started using photocopies of INEC documents to deceive people and distract him after NECO made the clarifications.
While wondering why the accusers failed to approach INEC and get a certified copy, Ubah added: “Waterloo awaits them in due time. You can also approach INEC through Freedom of Information (FoI) to verify. Let them approach NECO with their derails and swear to an affidavit and present it to the public as I did.”
Uzoh declined to make comments, stressing that since the matter is already headed for the Court of Appeal, there was no need for media interactions.
However, until the case is finally dispensed with, it is not possible to say who would be the ultimate occupant of the Anambra South Senatorial seat in the 9th National Assembly, because the state has a history of runaway judicial pronouncements that displace Senators. For the 8th Senate, Umeh had displaced Senator Ekwunife and represented Anambra Central for 17 months, just as Senator Alphonsus Igbeke supplanted Senator Joy Emordi for the Anambra North Senatorial seat in the 7th Senate. History is poised to repeat itself again in Anambra senatorial representation.