Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Kogi Tribunal And an O'level Certificate

Perhaps, it may interest Nigerians, particularly, the good people of Kogi State to be informed about the current development at the on-going second election petition tribunal sitting in Lokoja, the state capital, where the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu is challenging the outcome of the March 29, 2008 re-run governorship election.

Audu, had immediately after the conduct of the election, rejected the outcome and vowed that he would challenge it again. His team of lawyers headed by Mr. Alex Izinyon subsequently came out with a three-point petition. The former governor was claiming massive electoral fraud, non-compliance with the Electoral Law of 2006, illegal thumb printing, snatching of ballot boxes and violence, and seeking the cancellation of the election and that the panel should declare him winner.

In spite of the resounding grounds for petition, what is seriously receiving public attention is the issue of certificate forgery levelled against Governor Ibrahim Idris. Not even the deadlock occasioned by votes recount ordered by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Abdullahi Yusuf elicited much comments. What looks more strange to many observers and political pundits was the feeble and contradictory defence being put together by Idris' lawyers, regarding the certificate forgery allegation.

For example, drama, apprehension and uncertainty practically enveloped the court atmosphere on the day the tribunal rejected the 2003 GCE O'Level certificate with embossed passport of Idris. A strange development, of course, because the Governor has consistently claimed to have sat for GCE O' level by May/June 2001 as private candidate in Sokoto State. Tongues started wagging because it was public knowledge that the Governor laid claim to a 2001 GCE O'Level certificate.

To many observers, this claim anyway, was to say the least ridiculous and unrealistic, because there was never a time in the history of education in this country that the General Certificate of Education (GCE) O' level examinations were conducted in May/June in addition to providing for sitting for a private candidate in Sokoto State in May/June 2001. The GCE O' level exams which is completely for private candidates is conducted annually in November/December.

And come to think of it, the SSCE, which is conducted in May/June, is purely for secondary school students and has no room for private candidates. This futile defence is incoherent and therefore unacceptable. The University of Abuja, where Idris claimed to have studied law, made mockery of him when the Registrar of the University, Mohammed Bello Modibbo, declared as a prosecution witness at the tribunal that Idris' student file was missing.

Very bizarre indeed, given his explanation that the former registrar of the school, Effiong Ekefre took the file away in 2003, for safe keeping due to controversies generated by the allegation that the Governor did not possess required qualification to attend a university. Did the registrar have the power or authority to take home any student's file? The emergence of the 2003 GCE O'Level purportedly bearing the passport and name of Ibrahim Idris, was clear indication of indictment on the part of the governor, UniAbuja and the university authorities. We put it to Idris that his admission to the University of Abuja in the first place was in itself fraudulent because he lacked the requisite qualifications for such admission.

Idris also claimed in the INEC form CF001 that he graduated from the University of Abuja in 2003 and admitted to having sat for GCE O' level exams in May/June 2001. Assuming that he got admitted with this qualification, the question is, did he obtain a degree within just two years? Talking about the issue of this recent "wonder" 2003 GCE O'Level certificate, where did it emanate from? What is the source?

But it can only happen in Nigeria where every dirty thing goes. It must be accepted that the University and WAEC authorities may have conspired to play some dirty games which exposed the governor to his current humiliation. It would amount to a tissue of lie and therefore a criminal offence for Idris to now parade a GCE O'Level certificate which he claims to have obtained in 2003, the very same year he also claimed to have graduated from the university.

So where is the entry requirement with which he got the admission in 1997 to study law in the university? WAEC, University of Abuja and the embattled Ibrahim Idris owe Nigerians, especially the Kogites, a very cogent explanation to end this puzzle. For WAEC to have disobeyed the tribunal subpoenae as a prosecution witness and UniAbuja's trash tales of a missing file on Ibrahim Idris and inability to make same available before now have left many observers in the dark.

This piece is without prejudice to the honourable jurists hearing the case, but it has become necessary to inform those eager Kogites who were not privileged to attend this very important sittings.

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