By Muna Uzoma
It is no longer news that the Federal Court of Appeal, Abuja has upheld the earlier judgment of a Federal High Court which found the senatorial contestant for Imo North (Okigwe Senatorial zone), Sir Frank Ibezim, guilty of certificate forgery allegation leveled against him.
Ibezim ran under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and which ticket was hotly contested by Senator Ifeanyi Araraume before the court finally decided the matter.
He was consequently banned from holding any public office for life. However it is pertinent here to consider some of the facts that convinced both the trial court and appellate court to reach their conclusions and deliver the audacious judgments.
Below are some of the facts as adduced by the trial Judge that made him arrive at his decision or judgment
Excerpts:(IMO NORTH SENATORIAL DISTRICT)
It is baffling how the signatories to Exhibit A21 did not notice the fatal error above. I will however not say any more about this error as it was not canvassed in this case. In Exhibit. A22, the name of the 1st defendant is stated as Chukwuma Francis Ibezim which in the proper English arrangement of personal name, the surname would be Ibezim, the first name would be Chukwuma, and the middle name would be Francis.
In Exhibit A23, the 1st defendant in deposing to form EC 9 which is the affidavit in support of personal particulars stated that his surname is Ibezim and the other names are Chukwuma Francis. In the proper arrangement of his name, beginning with the surname, it would have been, Ibezim Chukwuma Francis as stated in Exhibit A29.
However, looking at Exhibits A26, A27, A28 and A30, the name there is Ibezim Francis Chukwuma. This means that surname of the person in Exhibits; A26, A27 and A28 is Chukwuma; the first name is Ibezim and the middle name is Francis. Again looking at Exhibit A30, the name of the person there is Ibezim Chukwuma Francis. This again means that the surname of the person there is Francis, the first name is Ibezim and the middle name is Chukwuma.
By Exhibits A22, A23, A26, A27, A28, A29 and A30, the 1st defendant has given his name as Chukwuma Francis Ibezim, Ibezim Francis Chukwuma and Ibezim Chukwuma Francis. Upon examining these names however, the answer of the 1st defendant to these conflicting names can be found in paragraphs 23 and 24 of his counter-affidavit wherein he avers that all the names are different variants of his name.
To buttress this assertion, the 1st defendant tendered Exhibit SFI 6 which is an affidavit deposed to at the registry of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on 1st September, 2020. It is stated inter alia therein that:
“I am known and referred to as follows: 1.) Chukwuma Frank Ibezim, 2.) Frank Ibezim, 3.) Chukwuma Francis Ibezim.”
The 1st defendant also tendered the following:
i. Exhibit SFI 7A which is a copy of Blueprint Newspaper publication of 12th – 13th September, 2020 of classified advertisement of reconciliation of names
ii. Exhibit SFI 7B, a classified advertisement in Saturday Tribune of 12th September, 2020 for reconciliation of names, and,
iii. Exhibit SFI 7C, a classified advertisement of Leadership Newspaper of Saturday, 12th September, 2020 for reconciliation of names.
The question now is whether these efforts have any legal effect on the attempt by the 1st defendant to reconcile the various names given by him, particularly in Exhibit A23 and the various documents thereto attached. The answer is no.
I have to state unequivocally that paragraph 2 of Exhibit SFI 6 has compounded the case of the 1st defendant as it fails to address the issue of Chukwuma Francis Ibezim as stated in Exhibits A26, A27, A28 and A30.
Again, I do not think that the 1st defendant can use affidavit to correct the names on his academic certificate. It is common sense to state that the certificates were not issued by the court but the institutions Francis Chukwuma in Exhibit A28 which is school Certificate May/June 1980 details results, the name of the 1st Defendant is given as Ibezim Francis Chukwuma. In Exh. A29 which is the 2nd defendant’s membership card of the 1st defendant, his name is written as Ibezim, Chukwuma Francis while in Exhibit A30 which is the voter’s registration card of the 1st defendant, his name is written as Ibezim Chukwuma Francis.
On the allegation in question one that the 1st defendant presented falsified and uncertified photocopies of West African Examination Council, submitted Exhibit A26 which is a computer printout of May/June GCE O/Level, 1980 result, Exhibit A27 which is a photocopy of the West African Examination Council School Certificate for June, 1980, and School Certificate May/June 1980 detailed result from Uboma Secondary School on 16th January, 1981.
Upon studying these three results, I find that each of them refer to the GCE O/Level of the 1st defendant of 1980 because they are all the same examination number. In Exhibits; A26 and A27, the number is stated as 11631041, while in Exhibit A28, the number is broken into candidate’s Number 041 and Center Number 11631. If the numbers are put together, it would come to 11631041.
I have noted that there are discrepancies in the scores recorded in the three results that constitute Exhibits; A26, A27 and A28; even though the respective result sheets have the same number. In Exhibits A26 and A28, the 1st defendant is purported to have written examination for nine (9) subjects and in Exhibit A28: He wrote examination on seven (7) subjects. I have already stated that the three result sheets have the same examination number.
There is something wrong with these results. The defence of the 1st defendant per the averment in paragraphs 26, 27, 28 and 29 of his counter-affidavit has not explained the variations or debunked the fact that Exhibits A26, A27 and A28 were submitted to the 3rd defendant, having not taken any step to controvert the case of plaintiff concerning the falsity of Exhibits A26, A27 and A28, has therefore allowed the case of the plaintiff to remain uncontroverted.
I therefore find that Exhibits; A26, A27 and A28 submitted are not authentic results and are self-contradictory. Therefore, they are false in all material particular and I so hold. I resolve issue one in favour of the plaintiff.
The allegation in question two is that the 1st defendant has presented and bears two (2) different and irreconcilable names, to wit; “Ibezim Chukwuma Frank” and “Ibezim Francis Chukwuma”. My initial notice on this issue is that Exhibit A21 dated 11th September, 2020, which was used by the 2nd defendant to forward the nomination of the 1st defendant as its candidate to the 3rd defendant did not state the name of the candidate, neither was it specific on the senatorial district of the candidate.