By Glory Abuh-Adejoh
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on Thursday told the Bayelsa Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, that it made correction to the name on the exemption certificate of the deputy governor, Sen.Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, at his request.
The Service, represented by Mrs Keziah Okonofua, stated this while testifying as a subpoenaed witness in the petition filed by Mr Ebizimo Diriyai, who contested the Nov. 16 governorship election in the state on the platform of Accord Party.
Diriyai had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Gov. Douye Diri; Ewhrudjakpo and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the tribunal.
The petitioner is claiming in the petition that the deputy governor forged his NYSC exemption certificate, which he presented to contest the election.
The petitioner further alleged that the person Ewhrudjakpo claimed was his elder brother who deposed to his declaration of age was even younger than him going by the date of birth therein.
Diriyai is seeking for an order of the tribunal to disqualify Diri and his deputy on the ground of the alleged forgery and declare him the duly elected governor having polled the second highest votes in the election.
The NYSC representative stated that she was before the tribunal as a subpoenaed witness to tender some documents and testify.
She then tendered the subpoena, and two letters written and signed by her on behalf of the NYSC’s Director-General to the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria police.
In the letter addressed to the DSS, dated March 10, 2020 the NYSC confirmed and reiterated that it corrected the deputy governor’s name.
The second one, addressed to the police, dated Dec. 20, 2019 also confirmed and reiterated that it was the NYSC that corrected the deputy governor’s name from “Ewhrudjakpa” to Ewhrudjakpo.
Led in evidence by Diri’s counsel, Chief Chris Uche SAN, Okonofua told the tribunal that Ewhrudjakpo sometime in 2019 wrote to the NYSC to effect a correction in the spelling of his name on the exemption certificate issued to him by the Service.
According to the witness, the deputy governor asked that the Ewhrudjakpa on the certificate be changed to Ewhrudjakpo.
She informed that the Service promptly changed the letter “a” to letter “o” on the certificate.
While being cross examined by counsel for the deputy governor, Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume SAN, the witness stated that the letter she signed was written in response to a letter sent to the NYSC by the DSS.
She further told the tribunal, while being cross examined by counsel for PDP, Mr Emmanuel Enoidem, the witness stated that some former corps members sometimes asked NYSC to effect changes on their certificates.
Counsel for the petitioner, Prof. Amuda Kannike SAN, however, asked the witness to read some portion of the NYSC’s letter to the hearing of the tribunal, which she did.
The governor also called the DSS Director, Legal, Mr Abdulsalam Ibrahim, as a subpoenaed witness.
He confirmed to the tribunal that DSS received the letter dated March 10, in which NYSC confirmed that it effected a correction on Ewhrudjakpo’s exemption certificate and further read out the relevant paragraphs.
Following Ibrahim’s testimony, Uche informed the tribunal that the governor had closed his defence in the petition.
Earlier, the counsel for Diri had tendered an enrolment order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), marked M/1777/19 and Form CM001 of the petitioner from INEC.
The Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Muhammed Sirajo, thereafter adjourned hearing in the petition until Friday, June 12, for the third respondent, Ewhrudjakpo to open his defence.