By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has asked the state governorship tribunal sitting in Abuja to vacate the subpoena that was issued for him to appear and tender a copy of his disputed National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Exemption Certificate allegedly issued in 1998.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo, in a motion he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, maintained that the subpoena the tribunal issued for him to appear as a witness in the petition seeking to sack him and the governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Duoye Diri, from office over alleged certificate forgery, was an abuse of court process.
He argued that the subpoena is a malafide, vain and only constituted a deliberate attempt to spite his office.
The governorship candidate of Liberation Movement, LM, in Bayelsa state, Vijah Opuama, had in the petition he filed to challenge the outcome of the last gubernatorial election in the state, alleged that Senator Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He alleged that the Bayelsa deputy governor gave false information in the Form CF001 he tendered to INEC for the purpose of the governorship election that held in the state on November 16, 2019.
Consequently, the petitioner is praying the tribunal to disqualify Governor Diri, his deputy, Ewhrudjakpo and their political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and order for a fresh election without the disqualified party.
Cited as respondents in the petition are INEC, the PDP, governor Diri and Senator Ewhirudjakpo.
Meanwhile, following an application by the petitioner, the tribunal which relocated its proceedings to Abuja, on May 5, issued an invitation in the form of subpoena duces tecum (witness summons), directing the deputy governor to appear in person and tender a copy of his disputed NYSC Exemption Certificate on June 1.
However, in a motion on notice dated May 17, which was predicated on section 6(6) (a) and (b) of the 1999 constitution and paragraphs 47(1)(3), 43(3) of the Electoral Act, 2010, Ewhrudjakpo, prayed the tribunal to quash the subpoena for being an abuse of court process.
He accused the petitioner of an attempt to circumvent the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt expected of him, by subpoenaing him to appear as his witness.
The Bayelsa deputy governor, through his lawyer, Ume, SAN, informed the tribunal that he is equally a party to the petition, with his own witness statement on oath and list of documents in support of same already tendered.
Besides, he told the tribunal that the petitioner had earlier subpoenaed the Director-general of the NYSC to tender same the same Exemption Certificate dated February 2, 1998.
Ume argued that the substantive petition against his client contained allegations of crimes that bordered on forgery, falsification and perjury, which he said by law, is required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in an election matter in line with decided case law in Nwobodo Vs C.C. Onoh (1984) All NLR.
He said his client could not be a compelling witness for the petitioner in view of section 180 of the Evidence Act, which provided that: “Every person charged with an offence shall be a competent witness for the defence at the defence at every stage of the proceedings whether the person is so charged solely or jointly”.
Ume contended that the petition was muddled to “such a ridiculous level where his client who is a defendant will become a witness to the petitioner as well as his own witness.”