Our names are an incredibly important part of our identity; they reflect deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical attachment. They also give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong, and our place in the world. To this end, inconsistency in names (no matter how slight the error) can affect our sense of belonging, especially when it goes as far as reflecting on a certificate. This article seeks to consider the evolving jurisprudence occasioned by the decision of the Supreme Court in People’s Democratic Party (PDP)& 2 Ors v BiobarakumaDegi& 3 Ors, in comparison with established judicial precedents on the subject and the effect of this change on the Nigerian judicial system.
An Appraisal of The Case
Prior to now, the practice for change and correction of name was by deposing to an affidavit and subsequently, a publication reflecting the correction in a local newspaper. However, that position was upturned by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of PDP&2 Orsv.BiobarakumaDegi& 3 Ors. The decision sparked numerous conversations largely because it resulted in the disqualification of the Deputy-Governor elect of Bayelsa State and consequently the Governor-elect thereby truncating their “victory” at the polls and replacing them with the candidate that had the (second) highest number of lawful votes cast.
The issues arising from this judgment would be best appreciated if seized of the relevant facts, findings, and conclusions that birthed the consequential orders disqualifying the All-Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate and his running mate.
APC, in compliance with section 31(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 submitted the names, personal information, and particulars of BiobarakumaDegiEremienyo (APC Deputy Governorship Candidate for Bayelsa State) and Lyon David Perworimin(Governorship Candidate for Bayelsa State) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Deputy Governor-elect, Senator Biobarakuma Eremienyo in the documents supplied by him to INEChad his name written as Degi Biobara in his primary school certificate. His WAEC/GCE certificate reflected Adegi Biobakuma (not Biobarakuma) while his university degree certificate reflected DegiBiobarakuma. His MBA certificate has DegiBiobarakumaWanagha as the name of the same person.
The opposition party, PDP, approached the Federal High Court claiming that the information contained in the documents was false. They sought the Federal High court to Invoke section 31(6) Electoral Act to disqualify the Deputy Governorship Candidate and consequentially the governorship Candidate from contesting the election.
Section 36(1) of the Electoral Act provides that If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.
They predicated their action on the fact that Senator Degipresented false information in his documents presented to INECin support of his nomination.
The trial court held inter alia that the affidavit of confirmation and correction of name was a fraudulent attempt to correct the name on the First School Leaving Certificate and the WAEC/GCE certificate. The only authority competent to correct anything on the certificate was the authority that issued either certificate and that the affidavit of correction and confirmation of name does not in his opinion conform to the proper manner of changing a name or correcting name on a certificate and that it is only by deed poll and not mere deposition that a name on an official certificate can be effected. That it is after the deed poll that the deponent approaches the Nigerian Civil registry to have the change published in the official gazette.
The Court Invoked section 31(6) of the Electoral Act and disqualified Senator Degi (and consequentially Lyon David Perworinmin) from contesting the governorship election in Bayelsa state.
The decision of the Federal High Court was upheld by the Supreme Courtto the extent that it is clear before the court that Senator BiobarakumaDegiEremienyo supplied multiple names to INEC, and he was therefore rightly disqualified from contesting the election.The court further held that the various affidavits and newspaper publications made by Senator BobarakumaDegi- Eremienyo to correct and explain the discrepancies in his names in all his certificates are fraudulent attempts as it is only the issuing authorities of those certificates that can correct any error in them.
Down The Line
Sequel to the Supreme Court’s decision in PDP& 2 Ors v. Biobarakuma Degi& 3 Ors, a similar scenario was replayed during the Edo state governorship election in the case of All Progressives Congress (APC)& Anor vObaseki&Ors.
The Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki was disqualified by the ruling All Progressives Congress from participating in its governorship primary election, due to an inconsistency noticed in his submitted credentials to the party’s screening panel (The “Panel”).
The Panel faulted Mr. Obaseki’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and higher school leaving certificates where his surname ‘Obaseki’ was written as ‘Obasek’.This led to Obaseki’s cross carpeting From APC to an opposition party PDP, where he eventually secured the ticket to contest for the second term as governor.
Notably, before the PDP primary election which was held on 25th June 2020, Obaseki had written to the NYSC to demand rectification of the error and re-issuance of the certificate. The step taken by Mr. Obaseki in writing to NYSC (which is the issuing authority of the certificate) would be rightly said to be predicated on the precedent established by senator Degi’s case and in avoidance of disqualification as was seen in Degi’s case.
Although the decision of the courts in these cases, met with varying opinions on its propriety, it goes to demonstrate the dynamic nature of the law. It evidences that our laws are constantly changing and ever-evolving, being interpreted, and broadened as regulators and judges strive to ensure that it constantly conforms to the dictates of the society it governs at every point.
(2021) 9 NWLR (Pt 1781) pg. 27
Per I.E.Ekwo J.
 Per EjembiEko J.S.C
 Section 31(6) Electoral Act, 2010.
Ibid @pg 1
 2021 LCN /4981 (SC)
I am really happy about the article. I did not know that an affidavit could not just be used. We learn everyday and thank you for this
Well written article. An insightful piece