➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) V. Biobarakumo Degi-Eremionyo (SC.1/2020, 13 Feb 2020)
by Branham Chima.
➥ ISSUES RAISED
False information in INEC form;
➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
The APC, in compliance with section 31(1) of the Electoral Act, 2018 (as amended) submitted the names and personal information and particulars of the 1st and 2nd respondents to INEC, and the same contained in INEC Form CF001 for each of the 1st and 2nd respondents. The 1st respondents Form CF001 duly sworn to by him was published. Pursuant to section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, the appellants approached the Federal High Court claiming that the information contained therein were false. They sought the Federal High Court to invoke section 31(6) Electoral Act to disqualify the 1st respondent (and consequentially the 2nd respondent) from contesting the election. They predicated their action on the fact that the 1st respondent presented false information in his Form CF001 to the 4th respondent (INEC) in support of his nomination.
They alleged inter alia that in his sworn INEC Form CF001 other than in his name: Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo. i. The name in his First School Leaving Certificate issued in 1976 Degi, Biobragha. ii. His WAEC/GCE, 1984 bears the name Adegi Brokumo, iii. His first degree bears the name- Degi Biobarakuma Wangawa. iv. In his affidavit of correction and confirmation of name sworn to on 9 August 2018, he asserted that his correct name is Biobarakuma Degi. In another affidavit of regularisation of name sworn to on 18 September 2018, he averred that his correct name is Biobarakuma Wanagha Degi Eremienyo. In another affidavit of 18 September 2018 deposed before an unnamed notary public on a letter heading: Stanley Damabide and Partners, he averred that while registering for WASCE examination “the alphabet “A” was inadvertently added to (his) surname to read thus – Biobarakuma Wanagba Adegi and same was captured in the certificate he obtained thereform. (The 1984 WAEC/GCE at page 61 however bears the name Adegi Biobakuma – not Biobarakuma Wanagha Adegi) In the said affidavit of 18 September 2018, he further averred that later in time he took chieftaincy title and by Nembe custom he added Eremienyo to his surname and his full name reads: Biobrakuma Wanagha Adegi-Eremienyo. On the statutory declaration of age dated 31 July 1990, it was declared that the 1st respondent bearing the name Biobarakuma Degi was born on 22 February 1959. The deponent, Henry Vanman, described himself (at page 65) as the uncle of the 1st respondent. On his Form CF001 (at page 531) the 1st respondent gave his name as Degi-Eremienyo, Biobarakuma Wanaghwa. By the change of name published in the Chronicles Newspapers of 20 July 2018, (as page 91) the 1st respondent announced the change of his name from Biobarakuma Wamagha Degi to Biobarakuma Wanagha Degi-Eremienyo. It is on these facts, not disputed (in fact admitted by the 1st respondent that the appellants sought the Federal High Court to declare that the 1st respondent had given false information, by the fact of his multiplicity of names, to INEC.
The learned trial judge at page 578, held that there was no nexus between the name of the 1st respondent on his Form CF001 and the various certificates (including the first degree certificate from Rivers State University of Science and Technology, NYSC Exemption Certificate of 2 October 1990, the award of Masters in Business Administration (MBA) Degree dated 14 February 2002; and that the 1st respondent’s name in Form CF001 is not the same name on the statutory declaration of age of 1 July 1990.
The respondents herein lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal wherein that allowed the appeal judging that the facts on which the originating summons rested and was premised on were in conflict.
This appeal is against the said judgment of the lower court delivered on 23 December 2019.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
I. Did the appellants, as plaintiffs, not establish their case founded on section 31(5) of the Electoral Act to warrant the trial court invoking the sanction provided in subsection (5) of section 31 of the Electoral Act?
RESOLUTION: IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR. (The trial court was correct).
[THE RESPONDENT DID NOT REGULARISE AND CORRECTED HIS NAME LEGALLY
‘They did, as the trial court correctly found at pages 574-577 of the record. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents, as appellants at the lower court, did not challenge the holding of the trial court that it is only the authorities that issued the First School Leaving Certificate issued in 1976, and the West African Examination Council that issued GCE certificate in 1984 that can effectively change the names appearing thereon, and that no affidavit of correction or regularisation can effectively change the names thereon. The trial court also correctly stated the procedure for regularisation and correction. Its statement at pages 575 and 576 “that affidavit of change, correction and confirmation of name has to be by deed poll and not mere deposition” is adverse to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents. This specific point in the decision of the trial court was not challenged. It subsists and remains binding on the parties. Even when on this reasoning the trial court found at pages 574 and 575 that the attempted change of name or regularisation by affidavit of correction and confirmation of name was futile and fraudulent, and that the 1st respondent could not claim to be the person referred to therein; the 1st and 2nd respondents in their joint notice of appeal at the lower court, in grounds 9 and 11 therein, merely complained that the decision of the trial judge was laced with conjecture, or “grounded in speculation and conjecture” and that there is no evidence that the 1st respondent was not the holder of the certificate attached to his Form CF001. The lower court, perversely, seemed to agree with the preposterous stance.’
THE RESPONDENT NAME IS FULL OF CONFLICTS
‘At page 132 is the statutory declaration of age deposed to by one Henry Vanman, an uncle of the 1st respondent, it was claimed therein that the name of 1st respondent; as at 31 July 1990 was Biobarakuma Degi. However, in the purported affidavit of regularisation of name deposed by the 1st respondent on 18 September 2018, before a faceless notary public, the 1st respondent averred that “my name at birth is Biobarakuma Wangagha Degi”. His uncle in 1990 gave his name as Biobarakuma Degi in the statutory declaration of age. The 1st respondent also claimed in the said affidavit of regularisation of name that “while registering for my West African School Certificate Examinations the alphabet ‘A’ was inadvertently added to my surname to read thus: Biobarakuma Wanagagha Adegi and same was captured in the certificate I obtained therefrom”. He lied on this. The WAEC General Certificate of Education at page 61, bears Adegi Biobakuma and not Biobarakuma Wanagagha Adegi. The 1st respondent did not explain why in 1990, in spite of the alleged error in 1984, Rivers State University of Science and Technology still inscribed the name: “Degi, Biobarakuma” on the Certificate at page 62 and not Biobarakuma Wanagagha Degi, his name at birth or Biobarakuma Degi appearing on his 1990 statutory declaration of age. It is clearly fraudulent for one person to allegedly bear several names that he uses variously, chameleonically to suit the changing environment.’
‘Clearly, the lower court erred when it held that the affidavit of correction and confirmation of name sworn to by the 1st respondent on 9 August 2018 and the Chronicle Newspaper advertorial placed by the 1st respondent himself explained the discrepancies in all the information, certificates and documents. For instance, neither the said affidavit nor the advertorial explained the name Biobarakuma Degi on the statutory declaration of age. While Adegi on the WAEC/GCE certificate was said to be an error committed at the time of registering for examination leading to the issuance of the certificate; no word was uttered on the name Biobarakuma, instead of Biobarakuma, also appearing, on the same certificate. The First School Leaving Certificate issued in 1976 at page 129, has the surname Degi and the first name Biobaragha which is not a synonym of Biobakuma nor Wanagagha or Wangagha. On this note, I hereby resolve these issues against the respondents particularly the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents in favour of the appellants. Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), provides that no person shall be qualified for election to the office of governor of a state if he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission. The certificate used here is in small letters. It bears its ordinary natural meaning. It is here used a noun that derives from the verb: certify which means to – attest, testify, vouch, ascertain, verify. The word “forged” qualifies “certificate” in this provision. In my humble view, the word forged used here is in the context of fabricating, framing, falsifying, inventing a false attestation, vouching falsely.’
THE TRIAL COURT WAS RIGHT
‘The lower court was wrong in holding that the appellants did not establish that the 1st respondent’s Form CF001 presented to INEC contained materially false facts and information or personal particular of the 1st respondent. The trial court on the contrary was right. On this issue, I also allow the appeal, set aside the judgment of the lower court delivered on 23 December 2019 and do hereby reinstate the judgment of the trial court delivered on 12 November 2019 including all the orders made therein. The sum total is that the joint ticket of the 1st and 2nd respondents sponsored by the 1st respondent was vitiated by the disqualification of the 1st respondent.’]
‘The sum total is that the joint ticket of the 1st and 2nd respondents sponsored by the 1st respondent was vitiated by the disqualification of the 1st respondent. Both candidates disqualified are deemed not to be candidates at the governorship election conducted in Bayelsa State. It is hereby ordered that INEC, (the 4th respondent herein) declare as winner of the governorship election in Bayelsa State, the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional (or geographical) spread. The 4th respondent (INEC) is hereby further ordered to forthwith withdraw the certificate of return issued to the 1st and 2nd respondents and issue certificate of return to the candidate who had the highest number of lawful votes cast in the governorship election and who also had the requisite constitutional (or geographical) spread. Parties shall bear their respective costs. By consent of all counsel appeal: SC.2/2020 shall abide the outcome of this appeal – SC.1/2020.’
➥ FURTHER DICTA:
⦿ FORGED CERTIFICATE IS WHEN CERTIFICATE IS NOT TRUE
If any fact vouched to be true turns out to be false, particularly deliberately false, then in my view the 1st respondent has presented to INEC a forged or false certificate: Dide v. Seleketimibi. — E. Eko JSC.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT(S)
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT(S)
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (LEGISLATION)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)