By Benjamin Jimmy
The Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State; the Temple Gate Polytechnic (formally known as School of Management and Technology) , Aba, Abia State and the Examination Certification Division of the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education have faulted claims by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the February 25th general elections, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, that the Member-Elect for Eket/ONNA/Esit Eket/Ibeno Federal Constituency, Rt. Hon. Okpolupm Etteh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), presented forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for screening prior to the elections.
The institutions’ representatives who faulted the forgery saga while testifying as witnesses before the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, on Wednesday, said Rt. Hon. Etteh’s certificates are all genuine, as they were obtained from the institutions after compliance and fulfillment of all the necessary conditions for such to be issued.
Recall Hon. Eyiboh had approached the Tribunal to declare him winner of the February 25th election on the grounds that Hon. Etteh of the PDP was not qualified to have contested the said election, having presented what he termed forged certificates with inconsistency in his name as documents submitted to INEC.
The petitioner also asked the Tribunal to declare him winner considering that he scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the Polling Units and that majority of his votes obtained from the Units and the results as announced and pasted at the Units were unlawfully excluded at the Collation Centres to the advantage of Rt. Hon. Etteh.
At the resumed hearing of the case, Counsel to Rt. Hon. Etteh, Barrister Ekpenyong Ntekim, argued that his client obtained all his certificates from recognized institutions in Nigeria and therefore, there was no basis for the any forgery as was alleged by the petitioner.
Counsel further argued that there was no inconsistency in the name of Rt. Hon. Etteh, as all documents bearing his name have not shown any contradiction with his age declaration certificate, which he tendered to INEC during his screening.
Testifying as the first witness before the tribunal, the Registrar of Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba, Abia State, the institution where the first respondent, Rt. Hon Etteh told the Tribunal that he obtained his National Diploma Certificate from, Mr. Goodluck Osemene, tendered evidence of Admission Letter, Attestation Letter, Results, Application Letter for the collection of result, Application for the forwarding of Transcript to the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, as representing the true certifications of the defendant, arguing that the documents originated from the institution.
According to the witness, the institution which started as School of Management and Technology, Aba, Abia State, before it was changed to Temple Gate Polytechnic in 2009, is a recognized Tertiary Institution accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) in October, 2010, and therefore, all documents bearing the name of the Institution that were presented before the Tribunal are valid.
Also testifying as second witness, the Deputy Registrar of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Mr. Alexander Anukam, who is in charge of Examination and Records, presented before the Tribunal, Letter of Admission for Higher National Diploma (HND) programme, which the Institution offered to Rt. Hon. Etteh on completion of his Pre-HND in the same school and other documents from the Polytechnic as evidence that the Member-Elect legally acquired his certificates.
Mr. Akaninyene Okon Inyang, Deputy Director, Examination Certification Division of the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education, also testified as third witness on the matter.
The Deputy Director tendered before the Tribunal, certified true copies (CTC) of First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) Ledger containing all entries for the examination, which the Ministry issued in 1998 to Rt. Hon. Etteh upon completion of primary school examination in the state as an external candidate in 1988, submitting that the document was not forged.
The fourth witness from the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Mr. Oku Johnny, who identified himself as an Administrative Officer, also presented true copies of academic qualifications of the first defendant as evidence before the Tribunal.
Counsel to the PDP in Akwa Ibom, Barrister Utibe Nwoko who held the brief of lead Counsel, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, who cited relevant provisions of the law and cases decided as precedence, told the Tribunal that all evidence presented by the witnesses were a confirmation that the defendant presented genuine and certified copies of his qualifications.
Counsel to the petitioner, was Barr. Jumbo Udom.
After listening to the arguments and cross examination of witnesses by the Counsel to Rt. Hon. Etteh, the PDP, INEC and the petitioner, the three-man Panel of Justices, led by Justice Kudirat Jose, however adjourned to 22nd June, 2023, for adoption of written addresses on the case.