By Lateef Ibrahim
The Deputy governor of Bayelsa state, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on Sunday declared that he has never contemplated forging a document for any purpose under the sun.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo made the declaration in reaction to the controversy surrounding his National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC), which his opponent claimed that he forged.
The Deputy Governor expressed the firm confidence that justice would soon silence those bent on dragging his name in the mud.
He pointedly maintained that the allegations of forgery against him were issues in public domain, even before he was nominated as running mate to the newly inaugurated governor of the state, Senator Duoye Diri, in the 2019 governorship poll.
Speaking through his counsel, Clement Bibisa Kekemeka, Senator Ewhrudjakpo admitted to an error in his NYSC Exemption Certificate, but quickly laid the blame on the corps’ authority whom he said, erroneously spelt his surname.
According to him, “Sometime in 2019, preparatory to the National Assembly elections, and specifically that of Bayelsa West Senatorial District, where Senator Ewrudjakpo represented until he was sworn in as deputy governor; one Ibisene Afamkolo took him to the Federal High Court and commenced a suit by way of originating summons, accusing him of presenting a forged NYSC Exemption Certificate.
“While dealing with that matter, being a pre-election matter; at a point, it became status barred, having exceeded the period of 180 days within which it ought to have been dispensed with by virtue of the provision of the 1999 Constitution.
“The next thing that followed was that truly on the certificate presented to INEC by my client in his form CS001, which is the nomination form, his surname was misspelt. Instead of Ewhrudjakpo, the name was misspelt as Ewhrudjakpa.
“After the matter was struck out and even though my client had earlier applied for the correction of this misspelt name, he was further bored by that matter by reapplying again for the issuance of a new certificate.
“He applied again, drawing the attention of the NYSC to the error on his surname and seeking a re-issuance of a correct certificate.
“Consequently, the NYSC responded and reissued a fresh certificate correcting our client’s name, reflecting the surname now as Ewhrudjakpo, being the issuing authority that has the loci standi to replace an erroneously issued certificate. That put the matter to rest”, he explained.
Barrister Kekemeka said on behalf of his client that though the matter had been put to rest following the issuance of a fresh exemption certificate by the NYSC; the matter again resurrected much to the disappointment of all who knew the true position of things.
He continued, “While my client was nominated to run for the office of the deputy governor of Bayelsa state; One Benjamin Youdiowei (A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC) initiated a direct complain at the Grade 1 Area Court, Lugbe, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, accusing our client of presenting a forged NYSC Exemption Certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“Our contention therein is that that matter is still subjudice and I won’t go into the merits or otherwise of the matter for want of care.
“But our concern was that by the Area Court amendment law, the Area Court does not even have jurisdiction over criminal matters.
“To have taken a pre-election matter which had become status barred to a Grade 1 Area Court was an abuse of court process and the court couldn’t have acted on it.
“Ironically, the Area Court judge proceeded to issue a bench warrant against our client and directed the Wuye Police Station to arrest him, then a Senator and prosecute him for forgery of NYSC Exemption Certificate.
“Worried by this development, our client took up a judicial review before the FCT High Court before His Lordship, Honourable Justice Belgore, seeking that the proceedings at Grade One Area Court be brought to the FCT High Court for the purpose of quashing because the court lacked the jurisdiction to sit on that kind of matter”, he stated further.
Armed with court papers and documents, including the fresh certificate issued by the NYSC to replace the old one; Kekemeka noted that those pressing for criminal prosecution of the deputy governor in flagrant breach of Section 308 which confers immunity on him, simply think that since the former deputy governor, Degi Biobarakumo was disqualified on the account of parading multiple identities; same fate should be visited on Ewhrudjakpo.
This, according to him, is playing politics with an issue that the NYSC has since laid to rest.