Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives and member representing Bende federal constituency, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, has told the Election Petition Tribunal 4 sitting in Umuahia, that he did not forge his credentials contrary to allegations by the candidate of the Labour Party in the February 25 national assembly poll, Chief Frank Chinasa.
This is as the Action Alliance, AA has insisted on the cancellation of the poll following the alleged exclusion of its party name and logo on the ballot .
The Justice Samson Paul Gang-led three man panel, had during its sitting on Thursday, admitted in evidence, nine different documents tendered by Chinasa, alleging discrepancies in Kalu’s credentials including his birth certificate, 1st degree certificate, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate, among others.
But the Deputy Speaker during his cross examination on Saturday, tendered seven documents including judgment of Abia State High Court, confirming his change of name.
Other documents tendered by the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate included a certified copy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria official gazette number 49 volume 107 of 26th March 2020; letter from the Supreme Court; newspaper publication and a Deed Pool – all confirming harmonisation of his name.
All seven documents were admitted by the tribunal as exhibits despite opposition by the 1st Petitioner’s lead Counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN.
The Petitioners said they would incorporate their reasons for objecting to the admissibility of the documents in their final written addresses.
Kalu who was led in evidence by his Lead Counsel, Kelvin Nwufo, SAN, explained to the tribunal that by the Deed Pool, he had harmonized all his names to be Benjamin Okezie Kalu.
Recall that the Petitioners had argued that while some of the documents that the 1st Respondent submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in his Form EC9, bore ‘Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie’ , others bore ‘Kalu Benjamin Okezie’, and ‘Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu’, respectively.
When the 1st Petitioner’s Counsel presented certified copies of the documents Kalu allegedly submitted to INEC in his Form EC9 where the alleged discrepancies were contained, the APC candidate said the certified copies had no INEC stamp on them, claiming he did not know where they emanated from.
He further argued that none of the copies of the documents tendered by the Petitioners was certified by any of the issuing authorities.
APC lawyer, Vigilus Nwankwo also aligned with Kalu’s defense, claiming that since the documents tendered by the Petitioners were not certified by INEC, they could not be said to be the ones submitted by his party’s candidate.
Similarly, INEC lawyer, Ogochukwu Onyekwuluke, disowned the documents saying they were not certified by the electoral umpire as they did not bear its stamp.
But when the 1st Petitioner’s lawyer put it to the 1st Respondent that the change of names he made was not done by any of the various institutions that issued him with the original certificates he paraded, he admitted that the change of name was done by him and not the issuing authorities.
The APC lawyer produced only one witness, Kwubiri Cyril Okorie who testified in defense of the party and its candidate.
The Witness who said he was the APC Local Government agent for Bende LGA, said Kalu was validly nominated by the party, and was educationally qualified.
He also said the election was peaceful and devoid of violence, adding that he was not aware of any court judgment disqualify Kalu.
But when presented with a copy of the newspaper publication where Kalu’s change of name was published, he claimed he could not see it clearly.
There was, however, a mild drama in the Court as the witness still claimed he could not see the publication clearly even after a torch light was brought to him shortly before the time allotted to the 1st Petitioner’s lawyer to cross examine him elapsed.
After presenting only one witness the APC legal team as well as the 1st Respondent closed their defense.
The matter was adjourned to August 14 for adoption of the final written addresses by all parties.
Meanwhile, Kalu was also cross- examined in a separate suit filed by the candidate of the Action Alliance, AA, Mr Ifeanyi Chukwuka Igbokwe, who is seeking the nullification of the election on the grounds that his party’s name and logo were excluded from the ballot.
Both Kalu and the APC witness, Kwubiri Cyril Okorie claimed that the AA candidate was not validly nominated, and did not participate in the election.
But during the cross examination, AA candidate’s lawyer, Mohammed Ndalahi, SAN, asked APC witness if any of the documents he tendered that purportedly supported his claims that Igbokwe was not validly nominated emanated from APC, he said no.
The Counsel to the AA candidate who argued that the party’s logo was omitted on the ballot, urged the tribunal to nullify the election.
Meanwhile, the tribunal also fixed August 14 for the adoption of the final written addresses of all parties.