The embattled Governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2023 general elections, has hired the services of seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, including former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Paul Usoro to defend him in the case of forgery filed against him by a governorship aspirant during the PDP primaries, Akan Okon.
According to TheMail newspaper, during the Court session on Monday July 18, 2022, the lead counsel to Mr Eno, Paul Usoro, SAN, sought the leave of the Court to amend their statement of defence which was filed on July 6, 2022.
The request was granted by the judge but an observation was made by Counsel to Akan Okon, Uchenna S. Awa, SAN who argued that based on judgments by the Supreme Court, a withdrawal or amendment to an earlier defence filed in court and served on all the parties to a suit by a defendant does not make it cease to exist. According to Section 136 of the Evidence Act: “A litigant should not be allowed to speak at the same time or the same moment from the two sides of his mouth. He can only be allowed to speak from one side of the mouth at the same time or the same moment. He cannot make a case in his pleadings and suddenly change or reverse position to make a different case. A party cannot by his complete state of mind make an admission and later decide to change it by an amendment”.
In the Supreme Court decision between Uzodinma vs Izunaso 2012, the court held inter alia “It is to be noted however, that a statement of claim or defence which has been amended will leave of court does not cease to exist. It is still part of the proceedings and can properly be looked at or referred to by the trial judge in his judgment”.
In his amended defence, Umo Eno removed the WAEC Confirmation of Result which he had earlier attached to the first statement of Defence he filed on July 6. He instead attached a Testimonial he obtained from Victory High School, Ikeja II.
As a result of the amendment of his statement of defence, Umo Eno through his counsels have delisted the WAEC Deputy Registrar who was billed to testify as his witness.
In the new statement of defence, the defendants (Umo Eno and PDP) however based their arguments on technicalities, stating that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate upon the suit because the suit is “irredeemably incompetent in terms of and pursuant to the Federal High Court (Pre-Election) Practice Directions, 2022 that was issued by the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and came into effect from 28 June 2022 (FHC Pre-Election Practice Direction” or the “Practice Direction”).”
Usoro, SAN and co also urged the court to dismiss the case and award costs against Okon because the plaintiff (Okon) failed to exhaust the internal remedies within the PDP as listed in the party’s guidelines.
He also said the suit should be dismissed because it is statute-barred.
In his observations to the joint statement of defence filed by Eno and PDP, Okon said the testimonial filed by the defendant is not in the list of documents submitted to INEC.
“They made reference to Religious Knowledge and the certificate carries same as one of the subjects offered by Umo Eno in 1981 whereas the testimonial shows Bible Knowledge, same as the now discarded purported Confirmation from WAEC.
“They now have inserted English Language in the testimonial because the plaintiff had queried how possible it is to write WAEC without English Language offered as compulsory subject. Also note that with this, he now has 7 subjects – Chameleonically 4 subjects, 6 subjects, 7 subjects all in one exam?
“A clear case of trying to distance themselves from the forged WAEC confirmations because the plaintiff had rebutted in his response and pointed out these discrepancies.
“The testimonial carries Victory High School II, Ikeja whereas the certificate carries Victory High School Ikeja. Their WAEC confirmation earlier submitted to Court and rebutted by plaintiff carried Victory High School 1, Ikeja. 3 Different schools”, Akan Okon said in his observations to Eno’s statement of defence.
He further said “If it is permissible, the plaintiff should do everything to ensure that the earlier defence of the 2nd defendant that the court and himself were served and the latest joint defence of 1st and 2nd defendants are taken together. They waited to see the response of the plaintiff to the 2nd defendant’s statement of defence and having debunked in its entirety, the now come up with this new one. It’s like someone writing exams and after submitting his scripts, the answers were shown. Seeing that he has failed and with the benefit of having seen the answers, now decides to write a new script to replace the earlier one. They said the law is ass but not stupid”.
The case was adjourned by Justice Agatha Okeke to Thursday, July 21st to enable INEC (3rd defendant) to make their filings.