Need To Check Excesses Of Judges: The Ifeanyi Ubah Matter

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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Gentleman of the media, and readers of this piece, we greet you as we start a new phase in our twelve year old strategic civil liberty advocacy campaigns.

This new campaign is to monitor proceedings in the courts of law and to highlight areas that infringes on the human rights of citizens and undermines judicial integrity.

Today, we are beginning with the trending news of a judgment of an Abuja High Court in Kubwa which purportedly annulled the senate ticket of senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Anambra South based on one of the grounds that he presented a forged school certificate.

This judgment of the Abuja High Court attracted our curiosity because we are aware that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah’s election has been granted judicial recognition by the court of appeal which dismissed the litigation instituted by some of the bonafide candidates for the 2019 National Assembly election.

Our team was worried about the implication of a state High court in FCT overturning what an Appellate court had certified okay so we went into researching the remote and immediate circumstances that occasioned this unbelievable judgment of a lower court overruling decision of court of Appeal.

In doing this, we set up our team that went through the said judgment by the Abuja High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Bello Kawu dated 11th day of April 2019 marked as suit No: CV/3044/18.

Gentlemen we will give you the main gist of this judgment, but suffice it to say that we have found out some major contradictions in the said judgment which directly undermines judicial integrity and calls in to question the interest of the Abuja High Court in all of this issue of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

In the judgment the judge committed a factual error by stating that the National Assembly election of 2019 which was held February 23rd 2019 was curiously held on February 16th.

We have also discovered that contrary to the claims made in the said verdict by Justice Kawu, the NECO certificate presented by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is in no way forged but the judge may have been deceived or he does not have the right information or he chose not to seek for the authoritative briefing of the issuing authority of NECO certificate before such an extensively defamatory determination.

We are absolutely gutted that a judge of a High Court could reach such a sweeping determination without any sort of forensics or even calling for evidence from the Federal government agency that is the custodian of the certificate which was tendered by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah to INEC which INEC verified to be correct and which both the court of first instance and Appellate court had certified to be correct. Sadly, the court relied only on the affidavits tendered by the plaintiffs.

Also the judge exhibited extensive lack of appreciation of the conceptual distinctions between the words CERTIFICATE AND STATEMENT OF RESULT.

The judge in his text of the judgment interchangeably identified these two items as one and the same.

The judge reached a laughable but defamatory conclusion that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah forged his NECO certificate which he erroneously called Statement of Result and for which he wrongly claimed that NECO issued the Statement of Result which any candidate can print out from NECO’s website.

Gentlemen, in our possession is a letter from NECO which confirms that the CERTIFICATE tendered by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is authentic..

In a letter with the particulars as follows NECO/R/LGS/20/003, dated 23rd January, 2020, NECO was tasked to respond to as follows: Application for the authentication of NECO Certificate and Statement of Result of candidate No. 31474672FC: Ubah Ifeanyi Patrick of June 2003: No. 303865920.

The NECO examination council wrote thus:
“I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter on the above subject matter dated 19th January, 2020 and to reply as stated infra.

“We hereby authenticate that the facts as stated in the statement of result of a June/July 2003 (Appendix 1 of your letter) bearing the following details are correct.”

1. English Language C6 CREDIT
2. Mathematics C6 CREDIT
3. Biology F9 FAIL
4. Government C6 CREDIT
5. Economics C5 CREDIT
6. Literature in English C5 CREDIT
7. Commerce C5 CREDIT
8. Christian Religious Studies C6 CREDIT
Number of subjects recorded: 8(Eight) including the failed subject (Biology).

Equally, we also authenticate that the facts contained in the certificate issued to you in respect of the aforementioned examination (Appendix 2 of your letter) as reproduced below are also correct:

Subject Grade Interpretation
English Language C6 Credit
Mathematics C6 Credit
Christian Religious Studies C6 Credit
Commerce C5 Credit
Economics C5 Credit
Government C6 Credit
Literature in English C5 Credit
Number of subjects recorded: 7(Seven) excluding the failed subject (Biology).

From the foregoing data, what appeared as a ‘discrepancy’ between the two set of data is the non-recording of Biology with F9(FAIL) in the certificate. This is easily explained by stating that the conventional and obtainable practice among examination bodies is that failed subjects are not recorded in the certificate, although they remain in the examination bodies’ database and continue to appear in both the statement of result(s) and confirmation of result(s) usually sent to educational institutions. In simple language, examination bodies do not issue certificate(s) for failed subject(s).

In all we state with every sense of duty and responsibility that both the statement of result and the certificate (Appendix 1 and 2 of your letter respectively) are genuine. They both emanated from the council and correspond with the records in our database.

Please find attached the certified true copies of the following:

1. Online (Internet) copy of the Statement of Result (which usually and still contains the failed subject: Biology in this case).

2. Confirmation of Result (which usually and still contains the failed subject: Biology in this case);

3. Broad sheet page showing the candidate’s details among other candidates (which usually and still contains the failed subject: Biology in this case); and

4. The original Certificate (which usually and does not contain the failed subject: Biology in this case).

Sir, kindly accept the assurances of the esteemed regards of the Registrar/Chief Executive. Signed by Comfort L. Kolo, Esq. (HOD, Legal & Board Affairs) for Registrar/Chief Executive.

This miscarriage of judgment is damaging to the central place if integrity in the judicial arm of government. This media briefing is to remind the Nigerian Judiciary and especially THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL that they can either work vigorously to compel judges to adhere principles that promote and protect judicial integrity or we wave goodbye to any sort of an INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY BECAUSE A JUDICIAL SYSTEM WHICH IS NOT ANCHORED IN THE INTEGRITY OF THE MINISTERS IN THE TEMPLE OF JUSTICE IS DOOMED.

Be reminded that in a lecture at the 2007 All Nigeria Judges Conference titled: “Towards Strengthening Judicial Integrity: The Nigerian Experience”. Justice Dahiru Musdapher JSC CON stated thus:

“In order to safeguard the rights of the citizenry: promote accountability, transparency and other essential virtues of a decent and just society; to ensure the subsistence of a functional state under the Rule of Law; it is necessary to promote, strengthen and protect the integrity of our Judicial system as well as the integrity of the individual adjudicator that is charged with the onerous responsibility of the dispensation of Justice.”

“The judiciary is the arm of government that is responsible for the determination of the rights of the citizenry; amongst themselves and between them and the State. In your words of wisdom you affirmed that the judiciary is saddled with the constitutional responsibility of providing essential checks on the executive arm by reviewing its actions to determine whether or not they are in line with the standards established by the Constitution."

This judgment of the Abuja High Court has adversely eroded the integrity of the court system and must be REDRESSED and the judge called to order immediately.

Justice Kawu had ruled thus: The crux of this lone issue couched, has two issues to determine thus:

1. The issue of presentation of forged NECO statement of result; and

2. The issue of failure to conduct primary election by the 2nd defendant ‘Young Progressive Party’ to nominate its candidate for the forthcoming general election.

On issue (1) of the claimant’s lone issue for determination, there is no iota of doubt that the law is settled and explicit on the issue of submission of forged certificate to the 3rd defendant, [Independent National Electoral Commission] by a candidate intending to contest in the general election. Section 66(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 [As amended] provides:

[1] No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives if:

(i) He has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Also Section 31(2) of the Electoral Act, 2019 (As amended) provides: “The list or information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn to by the candidate at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State or High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, indicating that he has fulfilled all the requirements for election into that office.”

At this point, it is necessary to bear in mind in considering the two provisions cited above, that the Electoral Act is subsidiary legislation which operates side by side with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Both the Constitution and the Electoral Act shall be read together in order to give effect and meaning to the rights and obligations of individuals. Accordingly, from the two provisions cited above it is crystal clear that presenting a forged certificate is a ground for disqualification as provided by the Constitution. The claimant deposed in his affidavit of evidence in Para 5, 10, 11 and 12, which are reproduced seriatim, that:

(5) The 1st defendant presented a forged and fake NECO result with candidate No: 31474672FC to run for the said general election to the 3rd defendant. Exhibit ‘B’ attached.

(10) That to the best of my knowledge, Exhibit ‘B’ which was the NECO result of June 2003, with candidate No: 31474672FC presented by the 1st defendant to the 3rd defendant as his NECO result is forged and fake result of which its original carried BIOLOGY, with F9 but the one presented by the 1st defendant to the 3rd defendant did not carry BIOLOGY subject, evidence of fake result. Exhibit B, the NECO logo and signature etc. are different from the ones on original NECO Certificate, same having been cloned.

Gentlemen as you can read from the letter from NECO, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah does not have any forged certificate. His reputation has been defamed. We urge him to take steps to obtain redress. The Federal High Court order obliging the respect to the Appellate court's verdict which certified the election of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah ad lawful is salutary.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko

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