Certificate forgery allegations featured prominently again as election petition tribunals delivered judgements across the country.
Allegations on forged (or missing) certificates have become a recurring issue in Nigeria’s political scene since 1999 when the country returned to democracy.
Although not all the allegations resulted in proven cases of certificate forgery, as some cases were dismissed in court due to a lack of evidence, a few others were rightly found guilty of this infraction.
However, the trend has continued unabated with the recent judgements emanating from the various election petition tribunals on the outcome of 2023 general elections.
A breakdown showed that the PDP has lost 12 members in the House, closely followed by the Labour Party, LP, with 10 members, while the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, and the APC have lost three and one members, respectively.
However, both the duo of the NNPP and PDP federal lawmakers have been alleged by the tribunal to have forged their certificates.
Idris Dankawu (Kano NNPP)
The tribunal sacked Idris Dankawu of the NNPP for forging his West African School Certificate, WAEC, which he submitted for election into the Kumbotso Federal House of Representatives Constituency of Kano State.
Munir Babba Danagudi of the APC who contested against Dankawu, had filed a petition, alleging that Dankawu presented a fraudulent secondary school certificate to gain admission into Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Kaduna.
The chairman of the three man panel, Justice I.P. Chima in the verdict declared that: “Idris Dankawu of NNPP forged his WAEC certificate,” and as a consequence, the election was voided.
The tribunal also instructed INEC to set aside the Certificate of Return previously awarded to Dankawu and instead, declared Danagudi as the winner of the Kumbotso Federal Constituency poll.
Muktar Umar Yerima (Kano NNPP)
Muktar Umar Yerima’s election was declared invalid due to the alleged forgery of his primary school certificate, which had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The petitioner in the case, Hafizu Kawu of the APC had challenged Yerima’s eligibility and presented evidence proving the forgery allegations.
According to the tribunal, the case of the petitioner, Hafizu Kawu challenging Yerima’s emergence succeeded in proving a case of forgery against him.
The court as a result held that the NNPP had no candidate in the election and that all the votes that were cast for Yerima were wasted votes.
The tribunal held that Yerima’s defence that he made a change of name in 2022 did not hold water having been using three (Umar Mukhtar Zakari) names on his international passport since 2009, while his primary school certificate still bore Umar Mukhtar.
It, therefore, directed INEC to retract the certificate of return that had previously been issued to Yerima, effectively stripping him of his elected position.
Aminu Ahmadu Chindo (PDP)
In Katsina State, the tribunal nullified two House of Representatives elections declared to have been won by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidates over primary school certificate forgery.
Aminu Ahmadu Chindo and Ismail Dalha of the PDP were found by the tribunal to have forged their primary school certificates.
The petition against Chindo was filed by Sani Danlami Aliyu of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Aliyu had accused Chindo of presenting a forged primary school testimonial. He argued that testimony bearing Kofar Soro Primary School, which he presented to INEC was forged.
But a three-member panel of the Tribunal, led by Justice O. Ogunfowora, ruled that the respondent failed to prove that he attended the then-Kofar Soro Primary School.
In its ruling, the Tribunal held that the return of Chindo as member representing Katsina Central Federal Constituency, Katsina State of the House of Representatives is nullified and set aside.
It also ruled that Aliyu, who was the first petitioner, was re-elected as a member representing Katsina Central Federal Constituency of the House of Representatives, and ordered INEC to give him the certificate of return.
Ismail Dalha (PDP)
Similarly, the court also nullified the return of the member representing Kankia/Kusada/Ingawa federal constituency, Ismail Dalha of the PDP for forgery of his primary school certificate.
The tribunal ordered INEC to issue a certificate of return to Hon. Abubakar Yahya of the APC who came second in the election.
Speaking to DAILY POST in an interview, concerning the development, the Spokesperson for the Forum of State Chairmen of the NNPP, Dada Olayinka Olabode described it as a criminal act for anyone to forge a certificate and present it for the purpose of contesting an election or for gaining a position.
Olabode urged the INEC to look at its laws and do a proper clean up before candidates emerge from their different political platforms.
He said, ‘‘Basically, it is a criminal act for anyone to forge a certificate and present it for the purpose of contesting an election or for gaining a position, whether political or even in the private sector.
‘‘However, since this is a political matter, I feel that we may not have seen the end of these allegations until all the avenues of rebuttal are explored and exhausted.
“In addition, I think it calls to question the due diligence that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, conducts in certifying people as candidates of political parties.
“If INEC has been up and doing, these are the issues that would have been determined before people are confirmed candidates of political parties.
‘‘I urge the INEC to sit up and look at its laws and do a proper clean up before candidates emerge from their different political platforms.
“It will help the system a lot. It will save the judiciary from wasting time. It will also save the nation from this embarrassment.”
On his part, the President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo, said it’s a national embarrassment that some of the supposed leaders were not setting a good example for the youths.
According to him, the matter should not only end in nullification of their elections.
The legal expert is of the view that those caught in forgery of any kind should be prosecuted before a court of competent jurisdiction.
According to him, “It is unfortunate that certain decisions emanating from the Election Petitions Tribunals in some states have nullified the election of some members of the National Assembly due to forgery of school certificates.
“It’s a national embarrassment that some of the supposed leaders are not setting a good example for the youths of this country.
“I hope that the matter will not only end in nullification of their elections but the appropriate security agency will take up their criminal prosecution for forgery before a court of competent jurisdiction.”