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Politics of Saturday, 9 January 2021

Source: The Sun

Alleged forgery: It’s judgment day for Governor Obaseki, APC

It’s judgment day for Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, as the Abuja division of the Federal High Court will today, Saturday, pass its verdict in the alleged certificate forgery suit filed against him by his former political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The judgment which is set down by noon, borders specifically on allegations of perjury and supply of false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) raised against Governor Obaseki, who won the September 19, 2020 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed the judgment after taking final submissions for and against the pre-election suit whose constitutional lifespan of 180 days expires today by midnight.

The main plank of the plaintiffs' case based on pleadings before the court is that Obaseki supplied false information to the 3rd defendant (INEC) in his Form CF0001 with which he contested the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State.

In support of their case, the plaintiffs pleaded and led evidence in proof of the material fact that the University of Ibadan (UI) certificate, which Obaseki attached to Form CF00I for the 2020 election is a false or non-existent document.

The plaintiffs called six witnesses comprising two Associate Professors who revealed that the absence of the date of the award of the said certificate on its face (as presented by the 1st defendant), as well as the absence of the Registrar’s signature thereon, as it is with standard degree certificates, are evidence of the fact that the said document is a false document or that the 1st defendant was deliberately trying to conceal material information about the certificate from the 3rd defendant and ultimately, the public.

On his part, Governor Obaseki opened his defence by tendering original copies of his academic certificates which were admitted by the court in evidence. This came as the University of Ibadan confirmed to the Court that it issued a Bachelor of Arts certificate to him in 1979.

The institution, however, said the photocopy the Governor submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is incomplete.

The University, which was summoned through a subpoena issued by the court, said it was not true that Obaseki forged the certificate he attached to Form EC9 (Nomination Form) he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the purpose of the gubernatorial election that held in the state on September 19, 2020.

It was represented in court by its Deputy Registrar, Legal, Mr Abayomi Ajayi on the strength of the subpoena that was served on the Registrar of the University.

The certificates admitted by Justice Ahmed Mohammed were First School Leaving Certificate obtained in 1971, Ordinary Level Certificate obtained in 1973, and his Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976.

The rest were a Bachelor of Arts Degree Certificate issued by the University of Ibadan in 1979 and a Master’s Degree Certificate issued to him by the Pace University in New York, the United States in 1994.

The documents were presented in court through his first witness, Charity Aguobawekhina who testified to their originality. Although lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Akin Olujimi (SAN), objected to the admissibility of the primary school certificate and original copy of the University of Ibadan degree certificate on the ground that they were not frontloaded, he, however, reserved his objections to his final written address.

But when asked why the signature of the Registrar of the University of Ibadan and the date the certificate was issued did not reflect in the photocopy, the witness said: “It is true my lord that part of Exhibit D4 was not captured by the photocopier, ostensibly because the size of the original certificate is bigger than the A4 paper that was used."

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