EDO State Governor Godwin Obaseki on Tuesday tendered before a Federal High Court in Abuja documents, including the original copy of the Bachelor of Arts certificate he said was issued to him by the University of Ibadan (UI) in 1979. It was to support his claim that he graduated from the school.
A senior official of the institution, Abayomi Samuel Ajayi (Deputy Registrar, Legal), was in court to tender more documents. He confirmed that the certificate tendered by the governor was the real copy issued to him by the university.
Obaseki opened his defence on Tuesday in a case the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its member, Edobor Williams, filed against the governor, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The plaintiffs, who want Obaseki disqualified as candidate in the last governorship election in Edo State, alleged that the governor forged the first degree certificate he claimed to have obtained from UI and which he submitted to INEC as part of his educational qualifications.
They are contending that a photocopy of the certificate attached to the nomination form he submitted to INEC did not contain the signature of the Registrar of the university and the date the certificate was issued.
But from evidence during yesterday’s proceedings, Obaseki averred that the absence of the Registrar’s signature and date of issue on the copy of the certificate he submitted to INEC were due to photocopying error, which cut off those features from the original copy.
Ajayi told the court that the university made a demonstration on being informed of Obaseki’s 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.
The witness, who testified as the second witness of the first defendant, said the Minister of State for Education sent a copy of Obaseki’s disputed certificate, 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.
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 first defendant’s certificate”.
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.
Earlier, while being led in evidence by Obaseki’s lawyer, Ken Mozia (SAN), Ayjayi tendered other documents, including the first defendant’s application, addressed to the Registrar to collect his certificate, March 5, 1980 and proof that he collected.
The witness also tendered UI’s Calendar containing admission requirements for 1976 to 1977 and Obaseki’s application that led to his admission.
Testifying earlier, Charity Aiguobarueghian, who described himself as 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.
But during cross-examination by 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.”
Isenalumhe and lawyer to INEC, M. A. Bawa, did not object to the admissibility of all the documents tendered yesterday by Obaseki’s through his witnesses.
But Olujinmi objected, saying he would 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, had his house in Benin City attacked and his brother shot.
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, at the commencement of proceedings, drew the parties’ attention to the fact that the case will lapse on Saturday and urged lawyers to avoid delay.
Obaseki is expected to continue his defence at 10 a.m today(Wednesday).
Back home in Benin and less than 24 hours after the Southsouth Zonal Youth Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gabriel Iduresi, testified against Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki at the Federal High Court in Abuja in the current certificate forgery case by APC, his younger brother, ThankGod Iduseri, was shot yesterday in Benin, the state capital.
It was learnt that the assailants dispossessed ThankGod of one of Gabriel’s cars as he was driving on Mission Road in the state capital in the morning.
Gabriel, in a telephone conversation yesterday evening, said: “ThankGod was shot this (yesterday) morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Mission Road, Benin City. He left home and was going to Globacom’s office in Benin City in one of my vehicles.
“The assailants opened the door of the car, shot at ThankGod, pushed him out of the car and they went away with the vehicle. I thank God that he is responding to treatment in a hospital in Benin City. The incident has been reported at the police station.”
Edo State Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC, Col. David Imuse (retd.) condemned the attack