The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has withdrawn the Certificate of Return it issued to the Deputy Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Friday Osanebi.
Last month, a Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, Edo State, had ruled against Osanebi over allegations of certificate forgery.
Dr. Muhammed Lecky, the INEC National Commissioner, South-South, issued the Certificate of Return withdrawn from the Deputy Speaker to Emeka Ozegbe, as the elected member of the Delta State House of Assembly representing Ndokwa East constituency.
In April 2018, a Delta High Court sitting in Kwale sacked Osanebi over allegations that the NECO certificate he submitted to (INEC) for his election in 2015 was forged. The court also declared that Osanebi lied on oath by submitting a forged NECO certificate and ordered the immediate swearing in of Ozegbe into the House.
According to the presiding judge, Justice V.I. Ofezi, there was no evidence to prove that Osanebi sat for the NECO examination at Orogu Grammar School, Orogu, Ughelli North local government area of the state as he claimed. Ozegbe was able to prove that Osanebi presented a NECO certificate, which was not his, in the form CF001 2014 that he submitted to INEC for the election and, therefore, directed INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the Deputy Speaker and issue sit to Emeka Ozegbe, who was validly nominated as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 elections.
The Delta State High Court judgment was appealed by the Deputy Speaker. However, at the Court of Appeal in Benin City, ruling was issued in favour of the claimant, Odegbe.
Osanebi, however, appealed against the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Benin City to the Supreme Court, which is yet to begin hearing on the matter.
In a chat with our correspondent, Ozegbe disclosed that there were two Appeal Court judgements that ruled in his favour. "One in the case instituted by me with suit number: HCK/78/2017, Appeal Number: CA/B/210A/18 and in the case instituted by Friday Osanebi with suit number: HOK/78/2017, Appeal Number: CA/B/210/2018. In both cases, judgements were issued in my favour and in the Appeal instituted by Osanebi, N500,000 was awarded as costs against Osanebi in my favour," he said.
"Mr. Friday Osanebi is on appeal at the Supreme Court, but as I talk to you now, the Supreme Court has adjourned the case sine dine and till June 24, 2019 and this current administration must have elapsed, hence the commission did the needful by obeying the Court of Appeal judgement to issue me the certificate of return. So, as at this moment, I am the lawful member representing the Ndokwa East constituency in the Delta State house of Assembly today."
While thanking his supporters, constituents, family members, friends and the youth for standing and believing in him, Ozegbe said: "I give God the glory and I thank INEC for complying with the orders of the court in this respect and also hope that the leadership of the Delta State House of Assembly, especially the Speaker, would also respect the orders of the court".
Checks by SaharaReporters revealed that Ozegbe, former member of the PDP, is currently seeking election into the Delta State House of Assembly to represent the people of Ndokwa East constituency in the 2019 general election.
However, Osanebi debunked the story of his sacking, saying it was mere rumour and should be discarded.
"Those peddling the rumour shouldn’t be taken seriously," he said. "Please, don’t mind them. The case was just heard on Wednesday. The case is still with the Supreme Court. The case has been adjourned till January; they are just carrying fake news."