By Mumini AbdulKareem
The 2019 governorship election petitions tribunal sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kwara State to produce documents submitted by the Governor-elect, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq regarding his educational qualification submitted to contest the March 9, 2019 poll.
The Tribunal which told the commission to make the education qualification of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate available at the next adjourned date – May 22, 2019 – for continuation of hearing.
INEC’s Publicity Sectary, Barr. Jacob Ayanda told this reporter last night on telephone that the commission is law abiding adding that the certificate will be presented once the court issues such directive. “But I have not really followed that case”, he added.
The tribunal had last Wednesday commenced pre-trial hearing on two petitions from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Hon Razak Atunwa and the Action Alliance (AA) challenging the electoral victory of the APC candidate in the election.
At the resumed pre-trial hearing, the tribunal after listening to argument and counter argument by counsels on the authenticity of the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) certificate submitted to INEC by the APC candidate fixed May 22, 2019 for continuation of pre-trial hearing and to enable INEC produce documents in its custody before it.
Counsel to the PDP candidate in the election, Kingsley Odeh had argued over the authenticity of the WAEC certificate presented to INEC by the Kwara State Governor-elect for the election.
However, Salman Jawondo, counsel to the second respondent, who is the Governor-elect, Abdulrazaq, had tendered a photocopy of WAEC certificate of another person to the tribunal to show that names or initials of candidates can be abbreviated by the regional examination body.
The PDP’s counsel argued that WAEC does not abbreviate surname, even if it were to abbreviate first names.
Odeh, who identified “conflict” in the documents tendered by Jawondo, said that the Abdulrazaq submitted a WAEC certificate with Razaq A.P in 2019 and a document which reads Razaq A.R. in 2015.
The PDP counsel said there is conflict between the documents submitted, adding that the photocopy of WAEC certificate tendered by Jawondo was General Education certificate of WAEC and not that of the Senior Secondary School Examination certificate of WAEC.
Speaking with journalists after the tribunal’s sitting, counsel to the INEC, Rowland Otaru (SAN), said that the petitioner got it wrong to put initials of the Governor-elect as A.P.
“What the petitioners were saying in their pleadings is that Abdulrazaq A.P was the initials in the certificate, but the initials of the Governor elect are not even A.P. It is A.R. So, even from the body of their petition, they are wrong.
“We now want to show that the certificate of the governor elect is genuine, valid and issued by WAEC. With due respect, they are just playing to the gallery. The photocopy brought was to show the court that it’s not wrong for names of candidates to have initials.
“The court then asked for the original of the certificate to be brought in order to compare it with the photocopy tendered. And so be it,” he said.
Otaru, who said he did not give consent to declaration of documents presented by the petitioner, said that the onus was on them to prove. “In the fullness of time, we are going to canvass very strong argument in respect of documents which they seemed to tender”, he said.
However, counsel to the PDP’s candidate and the PDP Odeh, said that it was actually the Governor-elect’s counsel that tendered bundle of evidences containing second respondent’s certificate that was submitted alongside other documents.
“The photocopy of certificate actually submitted for 2019 elections reads Razaq AP. Now, in their response, they have annexed another document, a certificate he actually submitted in 2015 general elections. That document reads Razaq A.R. So, they’ve actually aided our case.
They’ve made everything simple. It shows clearly that in 2019 they submitted a document with Razaq A.P. and in 2015 they submitted a document which reads Razaq A.R. That’s the conflict.
“For the purpose of clarity, WAEC does not abbreviate surname, even if it were to abbreviate first names. Razaq A.P. and Razaq A.R. can mean that any other person can claim the abbreviation. In his age declaration that was attached to the documents like INEC voters card, testimonial from secondary school in Kaduna, all those documents bear his full names, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. There was no where his name was abbreviated.
“On pleadings by INEC, which is a custodian of the documents that were pleaded, the counsel does not even have them in court. The INEC counsel was also objecting to his documents tendered by the petitioner, which is a declaration of result. He refused to give his consent to the documents. What they are hiding would be revealed during trial, to show that the petitioner had made out case for themselves. You cannot tender two contradictory documents. That’s why in our second ground of petition we are saying that the second respondent gave false information containing his affidavit submitted to INEC in aid of his educational qualification”, he said.