On 26 February 2019, a Federal High Court sitting in Jos, sacked a Plateau lawmaker, Mr Ibrahim Baba-Hassan, over certificate forgery. That case was a bold move by the judiciary to arrest the festering nature of corruption in the country and to nip in the bud the growing case of certificate forgery among the political class in Nigeria.
In the said case, the court found that the lawmaker’s Diploma Certificate in Business Administration which was presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2015 election was forged. In fact, evidence of the forgery was made apparent by the lawmaker’s deliberate action in not presenting the said certificate to INEC for the 2019 elections, having presented same in 2011 and 2015. After ordering for the disqualification of the lawmaker as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the court took the unprecedented move to order for his arrest.
By sacking the lawmaker, the court has proved that it will always do justice without fear or favour. Notwithstanding that the lawmaker is a member of the ruling APC, the court was still able to do justice in the case. This is commendable.
Now, there is an ongoing certificate forgery case involving the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike, that is very similar to the Plateau lawmaker forgery case. In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1430/3018 and filed on 26 November 2018, one Elvis Chinda is praying the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to disqualify Mr Nyesom Wike from contesting in the forthcoming governorship election in Rivers State, for allegedly forging the certificate of birth he presented to the INEC for his clearance.
It is the plaintiff’s case that the birth certificate, which was attached to Mr Wike’s form CF001 submitted to INEC and deposed to on 3 October 1986 had claimed that Wike at the time of deposition, was a native of Rumuepirikom in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. The Plaintiff firmly avers that as at 3 October 1986, however, there was no local government known as Obio/Akpor local government in existence in Rivers State. He further claimed that the certificate of birth was sworn to and issued at the High/Magistrate’s Court Registry, Port Harcourt but allegedly bears the stamp of the Judiciary Probate Registry, Port Harcourt. According to the Plaintiff, there was no court Registry, whether in 1986 or afterwards, known as High/Magistrate Court Registry, Port Harcourt and that no such registry existed or exists anywhere in Port Harcourt or Rivers State. Ultimately, the Plaintiff has asked the court to disqualify Wike from contesting the 2019 governorship elections in Rivers State. Judgment in the suit has been reserved for 8 March 2019.
The Wike certificate case is very similar in material to the Plateau lawmaker certificate forgery case. In both instances, the courts have been called to weigh issues and do justice. As I have noted here, the court in the Plateau case wasted no time in fearlessly resolving that case against the lawmaker.
Cases of certificate forgery in Nigeria should not be allowed to take hold. Its growth must be stifled and it is the duty of the courts to ensure that this is done. The court has discharged this duty in the Plateau lawmaker case.
As Nigeria watches and follows these cases with keen interest, it is hoped that the court will follow the precedent and reasoning established in the Plateau lawmaker case in determining similar cases brought before it.
*Boniface Ihunda, a legal practitioner, writes from Port Harcourt.*