The Federal High Court in Abuja today, Saturday, delivers judgment in a suit seeking the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State as a candidate in the September 2020 governorship election.
The suit, which has sparked interests within and outside Edo State, was filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a member of the party, Williams Edobor.
The plaintiffs accused the governor of forging his Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies certificate which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in support of his nomination as a candidate in the Edo State governorship election.
The governor, who contested and won the September 2020 election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, denied the allegation.
Ahmed Mohammed, the judge who presided over the case, fixed today for judgment.
This excerpt of the judgment is from PREMIUM TIMES.
The judge started delivering judgment at 1.20pm after lawyers announced their appearances.
The judge giving a recap of the testimonies, says the plaintiffs called six witnesses:
First plaintiffs’ witness, Edoba Omoregie, had testified that Governor Obaseki submitted false or forged certificate which he claimed to have obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1979.
Mr Omoregie, a professor, said that the certificate submitted to INEC for the purposes of the September 2020 election was without a date of issuance and signature of the registrar.
He said the certificate presented by the governor for the 2020 election was different from the one he submitted to INEC when he contested the earlier 2016 election for his first term in office.
He said Mr. Obaseki lied under oath and submitted false or forged certificate to INEC.
The second plaintiffs’ witness, Samuel Omale, an employee and legal officer of INEC, tendered Mr Obaseki’s Form EC9 submitted INEC ahead of the 2020 election.
He said he was not part of INEC team that received documents for the purposes of the election.
The plaintiffs’ fifth witness, Gabriel Iduseri, who said he graduated from the University of Ibadan and obtained Bachelors of Arts in Classical Studies in 1976.
He insisted that Mr Obaseki gave false information in his Form EC9 where he claimed to have graduated from UI in 1979.
He said Mr Obaseki tendered an equivalent of the certificate in 2016 but completely different from the one he tendered in 2020.
He said with only three credit passes in Geography, History and Religious Knowledge, Mr Obaseki would not have qualified to be admitted into UI in 1976 whether through direct or indirect entry.
The plaintiffs’ sixth witness, Mikailu Asekome, said he gained admission to UI to study Agricultural Economics in 1974 and graduated in 1978.
He said it was not possible to be admitted to UI without five credits.
He said his own certificate he obtained from UI was signed by the university registrar and the Vice-Chancellor.
Mr Obaseki called three witnesses.
His first witness, Charity Aiguobarue, said he was the one who made the photocopy of the governor’s credentials attached to Form EC9 sumbitted to INEC last year.
He said he did not forge or falsify the documents. He said the form EC9 did not contain false information.
He said the absence of the the logo and signature of the registrar were cut off from the photocopy of Mr Obaseki’s UI certificate was “ostensibly because the size of the certificate was bigger than the A4 paper on which the photocopy was made”.
Mr Obaseki’s second witness was Abayomi Ajayi, the Deputy Registrar, Legal of the University of Ibadan.
He confirmed that Mr Obaseki was duly admitted into UI in 1976 to study Classics, later renamed Classical Studies in 1979.
He said Mr Obaseki was admitted as direct entry in 1976.
He said Mr Obaseki met the admission requirements despite the absence of credit in English Language in the governor’s result.
He said the governor duly graduated in 1979 and was duly awarded Bachelor’s of Arts in Classical Studies in 1979.
He said the incomplete signature of the VC on Mr Obaseki’s photocopy of the certificate and the absence of logo and the registrar’s signature from the photocopy was because the certificate was bigger than the size of the paper used for the photocopy.
Mr Obaseki’s third witnesswas Eghosa Osaghae, a professor of Comparative Politics from the University of Ibadan.
He confirmed that he was Mr Obaseki’s mate in secondary school. He also said he gained admission into UI along with the governor in 1976.
He confirmed that the governor duly graduated in 1979.
The judge has started reviewing the evidence.
The judge holds that “the evidence of the plaintiffs is at variance with their allegations”.
The judge says:
“Allegation of forgery borders on crime which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“In the instant case, no iota of evidence talk-less of a proof beyond reasonable doubt was brought to prove the allegation of forgery against the first defendant (Mr Obaseki)”.
“Having thoroughly analysed the evidence of this case, it is the conclusion of this court that plaintiff did not forge his O’Level Certificate, his HSC certificate, and particularly his University of Ibadan degree certificate.
“Accordingly the plaintiffs’ case is dismissed.”