A high court in Benin, the Edo State capital, has ordered the arrest of a lawmaker-elect, Dumez Ugiagbe.
Mr Ugiagbe is accused of submitting a falsified WAEC certificate.
He is one of the dozen lawmakers loyal to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, in his political feud with the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki. Mr Oshiomhole is the immediate past governor of Edo and helped install Mr Obaseki as governor.
Details of Friday’s court order for the arrest of Mr Ugiagbe was contained in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES by a spokesperson to the Edo governor.
Read the full statement below.
A Benin High Court has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of member-elect representing Ovia North-East I in the Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA), Dumez Onaiwu Ugiagbe.
Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele, at the Criminal Court 5 in Benin City, the Edo State capital, issued the order of arrest following the refusal of Mr Dumez to appear in court to answer to a six-count charge of forgery and impersonation against him.
The prosecution counsel and Assistant Director at the Edo State Ministry of Justice, Peter Ojo, had prayed that the court issued a bench warrant against the defendant in pursuant to section 352 of administration of Criminal Justice Law 2016 of Edo State following the alleged tactics of the defendant in avoiding court summon.
In his defense, lead counsel, Paul Osarenkhoe, argued that his client, Mr Dumez, was absent from court because he is ill. He also submitted that the defendant was not properly served with the court sheets, which further justifies why he could not come to court.
But the state’s lead counsel, Mr Ojo, replied that the defendant has notice of the proceedings and is fully aware that the case will be taking place.
According to him, “The court order was served on the police and the state counsel in a letter dated 25th October, 2019, wrote to the police requesting it to forward the original case file for prosecution. This, the police acknowledged and it stamped by the office of the Edo State Commissioner of Police, dated 28th October 2019. Also, the officer in charge of legal session of State Criminal Investigation Department, acknowledged the letter on same date.”
Mr Ojo said there is no way the defendant could have claimed ignorance of the proceedings because Mr Dumez, through his counsel, had already filed a bail application in respect of the charge.
The counsel further contended that the absence of the defendant was deliberate, adding, “Dumez was granted administrative bail in Abuja by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). There is only one Police and Edo State command is a unit of the NPF, which works with the Force Headquarters in Abuja.”
The court however ruled in agreement of the submission of the prosecution counsel and issued a bench warrant against the embattled lawmaker-elect, adjourning the case till November 8 for plea and hearing of bail application.
The case had earlier come up on Friday, October 25, at Criminal Court 5, but the defendant also failed to appear in court as he was in Abuja. With the absence of the defendant in court to take his plea, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele adjourned the case to Friday, November 1 ,2019 and ordered the police to produce Mr Dumez in court on the new date.
The police had concluded their investigations on an allegation that the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by Mr Dumez for the 2019 State Assembly election had his passport superimposed on it.
WAEC officials had revealed that the passport on the original certificate in their database was not Mr Dumez’s, thereby confirming the suspicion of certificate forgery.
Mr Dumez is among the 12 members-elect in the Edo State House of Assembly, who are camped in Abuja and have refused to present themselves for inauguration over their loyalty to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), even as 12 of their colleagues have been inaugurated and have commenced legislative activities of the 7th Assembly.