A House of Representatives-elect, Christian Abah, whose election into the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, Benue, was nullified by an Abuja Federal High Court on Wednesday for forging a 1985 Diploma in Accounting of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, has approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, seeking to set aside the judgment.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, the trial judge, had held that his findings revealed that an earlier judgment of the National/State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi delivered on September 6, 2011, affirmed that the certificate presented by Abah to INEC was forged, and annulled his election forthwith.
However, Abah, through his counsel, Mr Sunday Ameh (SAN), in a Notice of Appeal, made available to the Street Journal on Sunday, urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment on the ground that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The appellant’s counsel also faulted the trial judge, arguing that there was no evidence before the lower court to support the findings that the appellant committed fraud and perjury.
He also prayed the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment on the ground that it was delivered against the weight of evidence, adding that the documents relied upon by the court were discredited by the documents submitted by the appellant.
He asked the court of appeal to remit the case back to the Federal High Court for fresh trial by another judge other than Ademola.
Ameh further contended that the trial judge erred in law when he went ahead to determine the suit in spite of being aware of a pending appeal before the Supreme Court on the suit.
Apart from the appeal pending before the Supreme Court, Ameh argued that there was an application for stay of proceeding pending before the trial judge.
“When the trial court heard the substantive matter on the 24th April, 2015 and reserved judgment to an unspecified date, it was seized of jurisdiction in view of the appeal that had been entered in the Supreme Court and the pending motion for stay of proceedings,” he said.
Ameh also faulted Justice Ademola’s decision of refusing to convert the Originating Summons with which the plaintiff filed the case to a Writ of Summons.
He said: “This suit is for a declaration that the appellant committed act of fraud, which cannot be entertained by way of Originating Summons.’’
“The manner in which the suit before the lower court was commenced is grossly incompetent and the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.”
Justice Ademola had in the judgment held that the allegation of certificate forgery against Abah by the plaintiff, Mr Hassan Saleh, was true, having been earlier established by an election tribunal in 2011 to be true.
He also said that a letter by the Registrar of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Mr Suleiman Buba, affirmed that the certificate presented by Abah to INEC, was forged.
The judge also declared all the votes that accrued to Abah in the PDP primaries held on Dec. 6, 2014, as wasted and also declared Saleh as winner of the election.
He, therefore, ordered INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to Saleh, who had aspired for the position in the primary election before the PDP declared Abah unopposed.
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.
Ademola also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to nullify the certificate of return issued to Abah.
He also ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, to immediately commence prosecution of Abah for the crimes of forgery and perjury.
Ademola also decried the conduct of Mr Ameh, who was also PDP’s counsel, for what he described as “frivolous applications and tactics to delay the hearing of the case’’.
He ordered that the processes filed in the suit and his judgment be served on the Nigerian Bar Association, the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee and Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, so as to sanction Ameh.
The judge also ordered the three defendants, the PDP, INEC and Abah, to pay a total of N450,000 costs to the plaintiff.
Justice Ademola expressed dissatisfaction over the conduct of INEC and PDP for promoting “the culture of impunity’’ by failing to disqualify Abah from participating in the election, at the initial stage, knowing fully well an election tribunal had found him wanting.