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Benue Rep-elect loses seat, faces prosecution over certificate forgery

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to nullify the Certificate of Return issued to Christian Abah for the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal ‎Constituency seat in the House of Representatives at the forthcoming 8th National Assembly.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola, delivering judgment in the suit, challenging Abah’s eligibility to stand for the election, held that the allegation of certificate forgery levelled against him by the plaintiff, Mr. Hassan Saleh, had been 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.

The court ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to immediately commence prosecution of Abah for forgery and perjury.

Abah, who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, had earlier been declared unopposed and elected being the only candidate presented for the March 28, 2015 election.

The court, in his judgment, declared all the votes that accrued to him in the PDP’s primary, held on December 6, 2014, as wasted and also declared Saleh, who came second as the winner of the primary.

He ordered INEC to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Saleh.

The court also ordered the incoming Speaker of the ‎8th National Assembly to swear in Saleh as the member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal ‎Constituency.

The court also berated the conduct of the counsel for PDP and Abah in the suit, Mr. S.I Ameh (SAN), for the frivolous applications and tactics to delay 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 Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee with a view of taking appropriate sanctions against Ameh.

The judge also imposed a 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 court judgment that had since 2011 affirmed that he (Abah) presented a forged certificate for the purpose of standing for an election.

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