…Declines To Enter Defence In Multiple Forgery Allegations
…Got FSLC In 1988, Admitted To Poly In 1990, Bagged OND In 1992, Obtained WASC In 2002
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital and presided over by a Lagos State high court judge, Justice Kudirat Jose, was turned to a near theatre of drama of the absurd in the resumed hearing of the petition of former spokesman of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, challenging the election of Hon Okpolump Etteh for the Eket federal constituency of the state, as more revelations were made on how Etteh obtained the Ordinary national Diploma, OND, from a non-existing private polytechnic in Aba in 1992, before getting his West African School Certificate, WASC in 2002.
This development led credence to the fact that the current craze to enter public office by all means and all cost is at fever-pitch, just as the desperation is scaling particularly in the election circle.
Act 1 Scene 1 of the first drama of the day was that the first respondent – Etteh, who was to open his defence after the petitioner, Rt Hon Eyiboh had closed his case on Monday, conspicuously failed to appear before the tribunal, despite the fact that he had earlier said he will testify and defend himself as the only witness.
But testifying before the tribunal for the first respondent, one Ozemene Goodluck James, who claimed to be the Registrar of Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba, formerly School of Management Technology, presented various documents including attestation letter, admission form, result after completion of the program, ND Certificate, application he wrote to get the certificate to back up the claim that Etteh attended the school.
However, under pungent crossed examination by counsel to the petitioner, Uyo-Obong Jumbo Udom, Esq, James admitted that Etteh gained admission into the Polytechnic in 1990, two years after he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC, in 1988.
Ozemene also admitted before the tribunal that Etteh obtained his WASC in 2002, 10 years after he got his National Diploma.
On further cross-examination on the status of Etteh’s claimed institution that awarded the National Diploma he filed with INEC, it was revealed that the institution is not only unaccredited by the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, but also not in existence, and not also on the list of accredited Polytechnics by the NBTE. Till date, neither School of Management Technology nor the later claimed Temple Gate Polytechnic is found in the list of accredited institution.
Efforts by the second respondent, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to confer legitimacy on the institution in tendering their governing council attendance register was disallowed and objected to by the tribunal.
Another testimony at the tribunal was by a second witness and Deputy Registrar, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, Alexander Anukam, who tendered documents that included IT, letter of admission for HND, certificate in marketing from Polytechnic Oko, pre-HND results from Oko, statement of results from Institute of Management and Technology, Aba.
However, counsel to the petitioner, Udom Esq, objected to the documents, noting that there is no admission letter to back up the claim. He also objected to the pre- HND result and submitted that there is no result like that for admission into any tertiary institution in the country, not to talk of a Federal Polytechnic like the one at Oko.
Also testifying for the PDP was the Deputy Director of Examination, Certification Division, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education, Akaninyene Inyang, who tendered before the tribunal the First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC, which the ministry issued in 1998 to one Okponette, Okpolump Ikpong after successful participation in the primary school leaving examination as a private candidate. He submitted that the document was not forged.
But when confronted with the FSLC result and the birth certificate as filed before INEC, Inyang was taken unawares and started sweating in the witness box as he could not reconcile the inconsistency in both the name on the birth certificate and the name on the FSLC issued by his institution.
The fourth witness for the PDP, Mr. Oku Johnny, who identified himself as an administrative officer, also testified before the tribunal, admitting that he submitted the disputed documents to INEC.
Recall that the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, on Monday, before the tribunal had denied the existence of the School of Management and Technology, Aba.
Recall equally that the petitioner, Eyiboh, had approached the tribunal, alleging that Etteh presented forged certificates to INEC, thus rendering him unqualified to have contested the election for Eket federal constituency seat.
Eyiboh and Etteh had contested for the Eket federal constituency seat on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, respectively.
Hon Eyiboh had premised his petition against Etteh’s declaration as the winner of the election on the single ground of ineligibility.
On Monday during the resumed hearing, Eyiboh ha subpoenaed the NBTE, the agency empowered to approve, regulate, accredit and sanction polytechnics, monotechnics and related institutions.
The NBTE was represented by its Director of Legal Matters, Rekiya Shuaibu, Esq, who confirmed the non-existence of the school that issued Etteh the diploma certificate.
Meanwhile, Gyang Dung Esq, who represented the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, also tendered the disputed certificates that were submitted by Etteh to INEC.
The testimonies set the stage for the star witness – Rt Hon. Eseme Eyiboh who entered the witness box to adopt his witness’ statement on oath and reply to Etteh’s response.
Ette’s counsel, Ekpenyong Ntekim Esq, however, met a resilient and sharp witness in Eyiboh.
In the face of barrage of questions from INEC and PDP lawyers, Eyiboh remain resolute, consistent and vehement in pursuit of his claims.
Curiously, public commentators are yet to unravel the reason (s) Hon Etteh was absent in court and decline to enter defence and defend himself of the weighty allegations bordering on forgeries with preponderance of strong evidence.
The three-man tribunal, headed by Justice Jose has Justices Philomena Nweke and Mua’zu Abubakar as members, has adjourned for exchange of briefs of arguments.