Court refuses to sack Kogi Reps over alleged certificate forgery
Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit seeking to sack a member of the House of Representatives, Lawal Idris, over alleged certificate forgery.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo who delivered the judgment held that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on the suit.
The suit was filed by Okino Adeiza of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); he brought the suit against Idris, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), representing Ajaokuta Federal Constituency of Kogi State.
The plaintiff who contested the election on the platform of PDP, alleged in the suit, that Idris, who won re-election at the last National Assembly election, was not qualified to contest the election.
He claimed in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1264/2018, that Idris gave false personal information in the Form CF001 he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2015 and 2019.
The plaintiff claimed that Idris submitted forged National Diploma (ND) purportedly issued by the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos to INEC in 2015 as his highest qualification.
Adeiza stated that, although Idris excluded the allegedly forged ND certificate from the documents he submitted for the 2019 election, he (Idris) also made false claim in the Form CF001 he submitted for the last election, when he said he had never given false information to INEC in the past.
The palintiff argued that by allegedly submitting forged credentials to INEC in 2015 and making false claim in 2019, that he had never supplied false information to INEC in the past, Idris was no longer qualified to stand for election, and should be disqualified.
He listed the APC, INEC and Idris as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants.
Justice Taiwo, in the judgment on Friday, upheld the objections raised by the defendants about the competence of the suit, declined jurisdiction and dismissed it.
Justice Taiwo particularly, agreed with the lawyer to Idris, Abdul Ibrahim (SAN), that the suit was not only statute barred, it was caught by the twin legal doctrine of estopel and res judicata.
The judge noted that, after the 2015 elections, Adeiza had challenged Idris’ eligibility up to the Court of Appeal, with the appellate court holding that he (Adeiza) failed to prove his claim of forgery against Idris.
Justice Taiwo said, since the Court of Appeal had held that the allegation of forgery was not proved in the post 2015 election litigation, it was wrong for Adeiza to seek to re-litigate an issue already decided by the Court of Appeal.
The judge also held that the suit offends the provision of Section 285(9) of the Constitution, having not been filed within 14 days after the APC submitted Idris’ name to INEC as its candidate for the election.
“This suit, a pre-election matter was not commenced within 14 days after the submission of the 3rd defendant’s name (Idris) to INEC as candidate of the 1st defendant (APC) as its candidate for the election.
“The judgement of the Court of Appeal has laid to rest, the allegation of forgery, whether of age or certificates, raised against the 3rd defendant (Idris),” the judge said.
In holding that the suit was an abuse of court process, the judge said the case did not only abuse the process of the court, having been filed mala fie (in bad faith), it was incompetent.
Justice Taiwo said, having pursued the issue of forgery against Idris up to the Court of Appeal (which is the last court in legislative election disputes) and failed, the plaintiff ought not to have come before the Federal High Court again on the same issue.
The judge said the right step was for Adeiza to ask the police to investigate and prosecute Idris on the allegation of forgery or obtain a fiat from the police to prosecute Idris for the alleged criminal offence of forgery.