A lawsuit of alleged certificate forgery filed against Konbowei Friday Benson, a senatorial candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.
The Apex Court ruled that because certificate forgery is a criminal charge, it must be established beyond a reasonable doubt before legal action is taken.
Another senatorial candidate from the same party, Senator Moses Cleopas, had requested that Konbowei Friday Benson be disqualified from the contest on the grounds that he had displayed a fake secondary school diploma that was reportedly issued by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
He claimed that the rival utilized a counterfeit certificate and bogus information to get approval from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and to participate in the PDP senatorial primary election.
Before the ruling, the appellant was asked a number of questions, one of which was whether WAEC had been called to verify the legitimacy of the certificate or not, but the response was negative.
The court rejected the appellant’s claims that the allegedly authentic certificate was devoid of a date, a signature, and an index as reasons why WAEC should not have been contacted for confirmation.
Although the appellant described the certificate as a worthless paper, Justice Okoro who presided over the proceedings said that the appellant ought to have done the right thing by contacting WAEC for verification since it carried the name of WAEC as the issuing authority.
Pleadings by the appellant that the Justices should invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court’s Act to resolve the issue were also rejected on the grounds that time for doing so had lapsed.
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Faced with the reality, the appellant withdrew the appeal and was subsequently dismissed by the Apex Court.
The law is clear that anyone or any organization making allegations must provide evidence before the court will take any action, according to Justice John Inyang Okoro’s unanimous decision of a five-judge panel of the Court.
Senator Cleopas, who currently serves as the senator for Bayelsa Central in the National Assembly, lost his campaign to run for re-election to the Senate in May after Konbowei Benson defeated him in the PDP primary.
Benson, the two-term Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and the party’s nominee, won the party’s nomination with 110 votes, defeating Cleopas, a former state chairman of the PDP, who received 22 out of 132 votes.
He had filed a petition with the Federal High Court to contest Benson’s candidacy on the grounds that he had submitted forged documents, and similar petitions with the Court of Appeals and the High Court.