Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State presented before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday series of documents, including the original copy of the Bachelor of Arts certificate he claimed was issued to him by the University of Ibadan (UI) in 1979, to support his claim that he graduated from the school
Also, a senior official of the University of Ibadan was in court to tender more documents for Obaseki and confirmed that the certificate the governor submitted was the actual copy issued to him by the university.
Obaseki opened his defence on Tuesday in the case brought against him, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its member, Edobor Williams.
The plaintiffs, who want Obaseki disqualified as candidate in the last governorship election in Edo State, alleged that the governor forged his first degree certificate; he claimed to have obtained from U. I. and which he submitted to INEC as part of his educational qualification.
They are contending that a photocopy of the degree certificate attached to nomination form submitted to INEC did not contain the signature of the Registrar of the university and the date the certificate was issued.
But, from evidence led on Tuesday, Obaseki demonstrated that absence of the Registrar’s signature and date of issue on the copy of the certificate he submitted to INEC because it was not properly photocopied, which made both features, contained in the original copy, to be cut off.
The UI official, Abayomi Samuel Ajayi, (Deputy Registrar, Legal), who was in court confirmed that the university made a demonstration on being informed of the Obaseki case and confirmed that it was possible to have the signature of the bottom of the original certificate, containing the Registrar’s signature, date of issue and part of the Vice Chancellor’s signature, cut off where a photocopy is not properly done.
Ajayi, who testified as the second witness of the first defendant, said the Minister of State for Education had sent a copy of Obaseki’s certificate, which the plaintiffs claimed was forged, to the school in November last year for verification.
Shown some copies of the disputed certificate and asked by PDP’s lawyer, Razak Isenalumhe if the photocopies already tendered in court could be considered as forged, as claimed by the plaintiffs, the witness said no.
“I will not regard the photocopies as forged, but incomplete photocopies, because the certificate issued by the university is larger than the paper size on which the photocopy was done, and in the process the date of issue and the signature of the Registrar – S. J. Okudu were cut off. Also the last part of the signature of Prof Tekena Tamuno, the then VC, was cut off.
“I am not seeing these documents for the first time. The Minister of State for Education had sent the documents to the university in November for confirmation, we demonstrated it by making photocopy with an A4 paper and the same result was what we got,” he said.
The witness said different results came out when the university demonstrated, using A5 paper, A3 paper and a reduced format to photocopy a similar certificate in Classical Studies issued to Issac Adekeye Abiona, because “we did not have access to the original copy of the 1st defendant’s certificate.”
The witness tendered CTC copies of the same certificate demonstrated with different papers sizes – A4 (not reduced), A4 (reduced), A5 (not reduced) and A3 (not reduced)
Under cross examination by plaintiffs’ lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Ajayi said he joined UI on May 2, 1995 and that he was not in the university during the period Obsaeki claimed to be a student of the school.
He added that demonstration by the university revealed that the photocopy, which cut off some information in the actual certificate was not properly done.
Earlier, while being led in evidence by Obaseki’s lawyer, Ken Mozia (SAN), Ajayi tendered other documents, including the first defendant’s application, addressed to the Registrar to collect his certificate, 5 March 1980 and proof that he collected.
He also tendered certified true copies (CTC) of the relevant pages of UI’s Congregation for Admission to Degrees, Award of Diploma and Certificates and 31st Foundation Day Ceremony, with the name of the first defendant indicated in page 2.
The witness also tendered UI’s Calendar containing admission requirements for 1976 to 1977 and Obaseki’s application that led to his admission.
He also confirmed as original, the copy of the Bachelor of Art degree certificate issued to Obaseki by the school, which was earlier tendered by the first defendant’s first witness, Charity Aiguobarueghian, a lawyer.
Testifying earlier, Aiguobarueghian, who said he is Obaseki’s Advisor, told the court that he accompanied the governor to the PDP secretariat in Abuja where he filled his nomination form and submitted to the party’s National Secretary, in whose office the documents were uploaded onto INEC’s portal.
The witness claimed responsibility for the error in the photocopied certificate and said he did not realise that part of it was not captured until the suit by the plaintiffs was filed.
He said the lower part of the certificate, containing the signature of the Registrar and the date of issue were cut off because A4 paper was used to make the photocopy, which was smaller in size than the original copy.
The witness said the document was not forged.
When asked by the PDP’s lawyer why he was the one sent to make the photocopy, the witness said “apart from being a political associate of the first defendant, I double an informal advisor on matters of this nature.”
Under cross-examination from Olujinmi, the witness admitted that the photocopy he made did not contain all the information in the original copy of Obaseki’s degree certificate.
When asked to confirm whether the copies of the certificate already tendered in court were the same as the one he referred to, he said “the documents are the same to the extent that the bottom is not fully captured.”
Earlier, while being led by Mozia, the witness tendered some documents including Obaseki’s Secondary School certificate issued in June 1973, his Higher School Certificate issued in 1976 and his Primary School certificate issued in July 1971
The witness also tendered the original copy of the Bachelor of Art certificate issued to Obaseki by UI in July 1979 and Masters of Business Administration certificate issued also to the governor by Pace University in New York in Sept 1994.
Isenalumhe and lawyer to INEC, M. A.Bawa did not object to the admissibility of all the documents tendered on Tuesday by Obaseki’s through his witnesses. But Olujinmi objected and said he will make his argument at the address stage.
At a point in the proceedings, Olujinmi informed the court that one of the plaintiffs’ witnesses, who testified the previous day as the fifth plaintiffs’ witness, Gabriel Iduseri, was attacked and shot his house in Benin City.
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, at the commencement of proceedings, drew parties’ attention to the fact that the case will lapse on Saturday and urged lawyers in the case to cooperate with the court by avoiding delay.
Obaseki is expected to continue his defence on Wednesday by 10am.