A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to cancel the certificate of return issued to Christian Abah for the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives of the forthcoming 8th National Assembly.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, delivering judgment in the suit filed in January 2015 challenging Abah’s eligibility to stand for the election on Wednesday, held that the allegation of certificate forgery levelled against Abah by the plaintiff, Mr. Hassan Saleh, was established to be true.
Abah was said to have forged an Ordinary National Diploma certificate in Accountancy purportedly obtained from the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, in 1985.
Justice Ademola said his findings revealed that an earlier judgment of the National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi delivered on September 6, 2011, and a letter by the Registrar of the polytechnic, Mr. Suleiman Buba, affirmed that the certificate presented by Abah to INEC was forged.
After granting all the 11 prayers sought by the plaintiff, the court granted four other ancillary reliefs in which the defendant was ordered to be prosecuted for forgery, perjury and falsification of results.
Abah, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party, had earlier been declared unopposed and elected being the only candidate presented for the March 28 National Assembly election.
The court, in its judgment, declared as wasted all the votes garnered by Abah in the PDP’s primary held on December 6, 2014. The court went further to declared Saleh, who came second in the said primary, as the actual winner.
Justice Ademola ordered INEC to issue fresh certificate of return to Saleh.
The judge also ordered the incoming Speaker of the 8th National Assembly to swear in Saleh as the member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency.
He berated the conduct of the counsel for the PDP and Abah in the suit, Mr. Sunday Ameh (SAN), for the frivolous applications and tactics to delay and frustrate the hearing of the case.
Justice Ademola therefore ordered that the processes filed in the suit and his judgment be served on the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Benchers, the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee with a view to taking appropriate action against Ameh.
The court ruled, “The 2nd defendant (INEC) is hereby ordered to cancel the certificate of return issued to Christian Abah.
“The 2nd defendant is also ordered to issue certificate of return to Honourable Hassan Anthony Saleh as member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in the 8th National Assembly and he be sworn in by the Speaker of the 8th National Assembly.
“It is also ordered that the 3rd defendant (Abah) be handed over to the law enforcement agency to be prosecuted for forgery, perjury and falsification of documents in the light of the exhibits and the findings of this court just delivered.
“It is also ordered that the record of proceedings in this suit and all processes as well as senior counsel, S.I. Ameh be referred to the disciplinary committee of the NBA, the body of bencher, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for appropriate action.”
The judge also imposed N450, 000 fine on the three defendants – the PDP, INEC and Abah in favour of the plaintiff.
The court berated both the INEC and PDP for promoting “the culture of impunity” by their failure to disqualify Abah from participating in the election in view of the tribunal’s judgment that had since 2011 affirmed that he (Abah) presented a forged certificate for the purpose of standing for an election.