Forgery: Legal Fireworks Resume Monday in Certificate Forgery Case Against Obaseki, With 9 Days Remaining

Tension as legal fireworks resumed on Monday in the pre-election suit challenging the academic qualification of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki with just nine days remaining in the constitutional lifespan of the case.

Hearing in the suit which has a life span of 180 days, suffered a set back last Thursday, as proceedings were adjourned following the sudden illness of Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.

The alleged Certificate forgery suit which was filed against Governor Obaseki by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and it’s chieftain, Williams Edobor on July 13, 2020 has a constitutional lifespan of 180 days which will become spent on January 13, 2021.

Thereafter, it will become an academic exercise as nothing legally could be done to resurrecte it from it’s constitutional grave.
The suit itself was caught up by intrigues and legal theatrics that were adopted by the combatants with each trying to outwit the other.

Although the matter was adjourned for Thursday for the cross examination of the plaintiff’s witness, Raphael Onwuzululigbo, a retired police officer, who claimed to be a forensic expert, proceedings could not continue due the Justice Mohammed’s illness.
The matter which was originally fixed for 12pm did not commence till about 2 Pm when the judge walked in.
But apologizing for the delay, Justice Mohammed explained that he had “severe malaria attack” and would not be able to proceed with a full trial of the case.

Responding on behalf of lawyers to the case, lead counsel to the plaintiff’s and a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), empathized with the judge stressing that his health is most paramount and important to all.

He therefore consented to the suggestion by the defence counsel including Ken Mozia (SAN) representing Obaseki; Razaq Isenalohme for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Sulieman Danbaba for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that proceedings be further adjourned to Monday, January 4, 2021.

Following this agreement by counsel to the respective parties, Justice Mohammed adjourned the till Monday, January 4.

The APC and one of its chieftains, Mr Williams Edobor had dragged Obaseki, his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court seeking the disqualification of Obaseki in the September 19 governorship election over alleged certificate forgery and perjury.

They specifically accused Obaseki of forging his Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies Degree he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the last governorship election in Edo State.
Meanwhile, after yesterday’s proceedings, counsel to Governor Obaseki, Mazio, brandished an original copy of his client’s degree certificate to Journalist saying he was going to tender same in court to bring an end to the controversy once and for all.
The plaintiffs had at the previous proceedings tendered two additional documents to prove their allegation of certificate forgery against Obaseki.
During the proceedings of Wednesday, the plaintiff’s tendered additional documents before the court, to prove its case against him.

The two additional documents include a University of Ibadan degree certificate, belonging to Dr Emmanuel Balogun and a report by a forensic document examiner, Assistant Superintendent of Police, (ASP), Mr Raphael Onwuzuligbo.

The documents were admitted in evidence by Justice Ahmed Mohammed as exhibits after they were tendered through the lead counsel of the plaintiffs, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN.

The first degree certificate in agricultural science tendered was awarded to Balogun in 1979, the same year with that of Obaseki.

The second document was however admitted with a caveat following objections to their admissibility raised by the first and second defendants in the suit.
The two documents which include; a University of Ibadan degree certificate, belonging to Dr Emmanuel Balogun and a report by Onwuzuligbo, were admitted in evidence by the court after they were tendered through Olujimi.

The first degree certificate in agricultural science tendered was awarded to Balogun in 1979, the same year with that of Obaseki.

Although the second document was admitted with a caveat following objections to their admissibility raised by the first and second defendants in the suit.

On Tuesday’s trial, the plaintiffs had through a subpoenaed witness, Mr Samuel Omale, INEC’s Legal Officer, tendered form EC9 completed and submitted to INEC by Obaseki in aid of his qualification for the last governorship poll in Edo State.

Meanwhile, Balogun during cross examination on Wednesday told the court that he has never seen the controversial degree certificate issued to Obaseki by the authorities of the University of Ibadan.

He went ahead and tendered the original copy of his own degree certificate in Agricultural Economics, which was awarded to him on July 6, 1979, by the University of Ibadan.

While admitting further that he had never worked in the admission department of the university of Ibadan, Balogun answered that he would not be in a position to make comment on Obaseki’s certificates.

The APC witness who tendered the original degree certificate issued to him by the University of Ibadan in 1979 to buttures the forgery allegation against Obaseki informed the court that generally, certificates are signed by the Vice Channcellelors and Registrars and that they always bear dates.

Responding to question on process of photocopying of a document, the witness said, when the document to be photocopied is not properly placed in the machine, it is possible for some parts of the original not to be included in the photocopied.

“My lord, in view of the nature of the certificate which is very valuable and important, if any mark is mistakenly made on the certificate while it is in custody of the court, it becomes void and universities does not issue replacement certificates.

“That is why we have made photocopy of the certificate which we humbly urge your lordship to substitute in the record for the original certificate”.

“If you do not scale it some parts will be left out and it will not be a true reflection of the original documents.

He said as at then, there were students that were also admitted through direct entry, adding that while those that entered through prelim spent 4 years, those that got into the school through direct entry spent only 3 years.

He told the court that the admission process was always documented.

“University of Ibandan had an admission office that dealt with issues that pertained to admission. I never worked in the admission office”, he added.

Prof. Balogun said he got appointment in Unilag on September 1, 2006.

“I am an academic staff. I have never also worked in the admission office of University of Lagos.

“I will be surprised that somebody can get admission into the University of Ibadan as at then with only three O’level results or two A level results with a minimum of 2 HSC papers.

“1975 was before JAMB was established and each University had its own policy and criteria for admission, including University of Ibadan.
“Even though the Universities had their preliminary exams, but the exams were structured in such a way that either you enter through O’level or through direct entry.

“Anybody with A’ level did not have to sit for the preliminary exam”, the witness added.

Continuing, he said: “I have never set my eyes on original certificates of the 1st Defendant, Godwin Obaseki.

“Because I have not seen any of Governor Obaseki’s original certificates, I am not in a position to make comments on any of them.

“As at 1976, there were different entry requirements for prelim and direct entry students.

“As at then, admission requirements varied from one faculty to the other

“The basic requirement for admission was 5 credits, including Maths and English, but anyone coming in through direct entry must have made the 5 credits and then choose two subjects in HSC.

“Generally, a certificate is signed by the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar, with a date on it.

“Generally, all certificates issued by University of Ibadan are coloured with a coloured logo on it.

“The certificate is usually larger than the normal A4 papers”.

He said if any attempt is made to compress and photocopy a certificate in an A4 paper, some parts of the certificate would be left out and would no longer be a reflection of the original Certificate.

After his discharged from the witness box, attempt by the plaintiffs to call in their fourth witness was challenged by the first and second defendants on grounds that they have exhausted the number of days provided by the court for the plaintiffs to call their witnesses, adding that by the court’s adjournment the previous day, the plaintiffs were to close their case and the first defendant called upon to open its case.

The objections were however overruled by Justice Mohammed, who noted that a lot of issues came up that affected the time given to the plaintiffs, stating that similar consideration would be extended to the defendants.

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