Posted by Osteen Oyibode, Asaba | 13 August 2015 | 4,577 times
Proceedings at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, took a dramatic dimension, Wednesday, when a middle aged man who was declared dead made a surprise appearance.
Hon. Christopher Anirah, was summoned by the tribunal to give evidence in court, in the on-going trial in an election petition between Hon. Gibson Ighofose Akporehe, of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Hon. Evelyn Omavowan Oboro, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Akporehe, a candidate in the just concluded House of Representatives election for Okpe, Sapale and Uvwie Federal Constituency, through his counsel, Mr. Charles Umweni, had told the tribunal that the witness he intends to call, (Anirah) cannot come to the tribunal to testify because he was dead.
He told the tribunal that Anirah died of cardiac attack, and cannot be subpoenaed to give evidence in the on-going case.
But, at the resumed hearing of the matter, somebody who claimed to be Anirah stormed the tribunal and stepped into the witness box to give evidence when the chairman of the three-man tribunal panel, Justice Adebukole Banjoko called out the name.
The move temporally created commotion in the tribunal as the bewildered audience started shuffling and murmuring in low tones following the sudden appearance of a ‘dead man’ in court, prompting Justice Banjoko to call for calm.
Akporehe of APC is challenging the election victory of Oboro. Joined in the suit are; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Resident Electoral Commission (REC), PDP and eight others. Christopher Anirah is Oboro’s star witness in the matter. Anirah, during examination, by respondents counsel, Mr. Onome Egbon, told the tribunal that he was the rightful candidate of APC for the Okpe, Sapale and Uvwie Federal Constituency of Delta State in the 2015 national assembly election until his name was fraudulently substituted with that of Akporehe’s name on account that he (Anirah) was dead.
He told the tribunal that Akporehe allegedly, “forged a death certificate from a General Hospital that I died of cardiac failure and hypertension,” with which he deceived INEC to remove his name from the list of contestants for the election.
He also told the tribunal that somebody who posed as his family member was made to testify that the death rumor was true to convince INEC to carry out their evil plan of substituting his name.
Anirah further stated that he has received several death threats through phone calls warning him not to come near the tribunal premises to testify in the on-going matter between Oboro and Akporehe as doing so will be at the risk of his life, adding that the threat has since been reported to the security agents
According to him, “The notice was supported with a forged death certificate signed by a non-existent Dr Jude Omoefe from a non-existent Government Hospital Okpe, Orerokpe. It says Christopher Anirah died of cardiac failure and hypertension. Also backing the notice is an affidavit of death dated Jan. 15, 2015 and deposed to by Okonji at the Ughoton Customary Court, Ughoton, Delta State.
An emotional Anirah took the tribunal through the sequence of events beginning from when he won the primaries to the morning of March 28 when he was finally told that he had been substituted. In between, he got wind of the “evil and desperate plot to rob me of my mandate,” but all his efforts to protect it ended in futility.
He narrated to the court that, “after the primaries, I travelled briefly out of the country. When I returned on Jan. 23, I heard that one Cyril Ogodo, the deputy state chairman of my party, had sold my mandate to one Gibson Akporehe. The party claimed not to know about it.
“When I formally reported the matter to the party, the state chairman, Erhue, and the gubernatorial candidate, Emerhor, instructed the deputy state chairman, Ogodo, to go back and restore my name, which he did after collecting some amounts of money from me.
“Surprisingly, after my name had entered the final list of INEC, I got wind of their plan to substitute me on the ground that I was dead. I now wrote to APC and INEC (he also tendered copies of the letter). I went there myself to submit the letters in which I informed them that some people were faking my death in order to substitute me. That was on Jan. 24.
"Before then, during our campaign at Orerokpe, the APC governorship candidate told the people at the rally that in a few days’ time they would know who would be the House of Representatives candidate and a commissioner between me and Akpore. After the rally I met him and asked why he made such statement knowing I was the candidate. He just smiled and didn’t say anything.
“Five days later, I got a call from INEC in Abuja that if I was alive I should come to their office at 7 a.m. the next day. The call came at about 9 p.m. That same night, I left Sapele at 11 p.m., drove overnight to INEC in Abuja where I met Mr. Ibrahim Bawa, the head of legal unit of the commission.
“They interviewed me during which I gave them evidence that I was alive. They then assured me that I could not be substituted because I was alive. They said that they were not happy over the issue, asking why the APC of all party did such a thing. They said I should meet the APC national chairman who signed the letter of substitution to revoke it.”
Acting on the INEC advice, Anirah said that he went to Odigie-Oyegun, who he said apologised and promised to call a meeting to discuss the matter in order to have the substitution letter revoked. As it turned out, that was never to be.
He continued: “What I saw was that on March 27, a day to my election, Oyegun, Cyril and Otega conspired and went back to submit the same letter to INEC that I was dead and then submitted the same forged death certificate.
“On the strength of that, INEC headquarters then wrote (he also attached a certified true copy of the letter) to its office in Asaba, Delta State, that I was dead and should be substituted I was informed at 8 a.m. on the day of the election that I had been replaced.”
The complainant added that since then he had been making efforts to have the alleged culprits arrested all to no avail.
“I want Nigerians to help me fight this injustice, because if they let these people succeed it could be another person tomorrow. It is unfair and inhuman for a man that is alive to be technically erased from the surface of this earth.
“My mother, children and friends are yet to get over the shock they experienced when they got the news that I was dead.”
Meanwhile, Oboro in her preliminary objection filed from Peter Mrakpor’s chambers, is asking the tribunal to dismiss Akporehe’s petition for lack of merit, saying it is an abuse of court process.
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