Nigeria: Jubilation in Edo As Court Dismisses Alleged Certificate Forgery Suit Against Obaseki

(file photo).
10 January 2021

Abuja and Benin City — There was wild jubilation yesterday in some parts of Edo State as Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Saturday, dismissed a suit of forgery against the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki for want of merit.

Mohammed dismissed the suit brought by Obaseki's former party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the grounds that they failed to prove allegations of forgery against the governor.

Obaseki hailed the decision of the court as he triumph of truth and rule of law in a statement immediately after the judgment.

According to the judge, the plaintiffs' reliance on photocopies of Obaseki's credentials in instituting the forgery case against him was fatal to their case.

He held that non of the witnesses called by the plaintiffs confirmed ever seen Obaseki's original certificate, nor visited the University of Ibadan or other relevant educational bodies to verify the authenticity of Obaseki's certificates submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the September 19 governorship poll in Edo State.

APC and one Edobor Williams had dragged Obaseki to court for allegedly forging his University of Ibadan (UI) degree certificate as well as other certificates he submitted to INEC for the governorship election.

In the suit filed on July 14, 2019, the plaintiffs asked the court to disqualify Obaseki and his party, from the poll in the event that Obaseki was found to have forged his university certificate obtained from UI in 1979.

They further submitted that Obaseki did not meet the minimum requirement for admission for a first degree course at the university in 1976.

In proving their case, the plaintiffs called in a total of six witnesses including two Associate Professors, who tendered their individual certificates obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1978 and 1979 respectively.

But in his defence, Obaseki called three witnesses among whom is the Deputy Registrar, Legal, University of Ibadan, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi, who told the court that the mere fact that some parts of the original of Obaseki's degree certificate from the UI were missing in the photocopy he attached to his form EC9 and 001 to INEC did not amount to forgery.

Delivering judgment, Mohammed, who held that he who alleged must prove, noted that the plaintiffs failed to lead credible evidence to substantiate their claims that Obaseki submitted forged or false documents to INEC.

He said plaintiffs only relied on photocopies instead of going to the various institution to verify Obaseki's claim regarding his certificates, adding that Obaseki through his witnesses were able to explain convincingly the discrepancies in the certificates.

The judge further stated that the issue of forgery was a criminal offence, which required that the allegations must be proved beyond reasonable doubts, adding also that the case of the plaintiffs lacked evidence talk less of being proven beyond reasonable doubt.

He therefore argued that the evidence brought before the court was at variance with the allegations.

Noting that Obaseki on his part called witnesses, who tendered direct evidence in his defence, the judge held that Obaseki's presentation of his original copies of all his certificates put to rest any claim that he forged his certificates.

He added that one of the witnesses from the University of Ibadan, Ajayi, went further to show that Obaseki actually graduated from the UI in 1979 and met all necessary requirements to gain admission into the faculty of Arts, where he bagged a Bachelor's degree in Classical Studies.

"It is my conclusion that plaintiffs failed to prove their allegations of forgery against the defendants. Plaintiffs' case has failed and it is accordingly dismissed", the court held.

Meanwhile, there were wild Jubilations yesterday in Benin City, the Edo State capital by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as they celebrated the verdict of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Speaking in Benin immediately the news broke, the Edo PDP sent out a congratulatory message to Governor Obaseki on the victory he recorded at the Federal High Court.

Obaseki Reacts

The governor, in a statement, said the judgement is a triumph of the rule of law and a testament to the fact that truth would prevail ultimately no matter how vehemently detractors push lies in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

According to the governor, "The verdict of the Federal High Court, delivered by Honourable Justice Ahmed Mohammed is well-received and a victory for the rule of law. It was a most needless attempt by desperate individuals trying to undo the will of the people through the backdoor but we are happy today that justice and truth have prevailed."

He noted that the verdict confirms once again that Edo people were well-guided in trusting him to lead them in the September 19th governorship election, promising to continue to prioritise the development of the state not minding the darts thrown by those who are embittered by their loss and continue their attempt to put spanner in the works even when they have been roundly beaten on all fronts.

"My profound gratitude goes to the judiciary who have stood indefatigably for truth and justice; the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR); my party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); our party leaders and members; my teeming supporters; the good people of Edo State and all Nigerians."

Edo PDP Reacts

The party described the victory as a testimony to the fact that the Obaseki-led government was actually enthroned by the wish of Edo people and had the blessings of God.

The party, therefore, advised APC to stop traveling the road of ignominy and joined the government to build a society, where hard work is rewarded; where hate should be condemned and love for a prosperous state the driving spirit.

Publicity Secretary of Edo PDP, Chris Nehikhare, who signed the message declared: "It is now clear that Edo APC and the news and stories they propagate are built on falsehood, social greed, intellectual imbecility and pathological irresponsibility.

"Edo people are advised not to only punish them with their votes on election days, but to consider them public enemy number one henceforth!

"However, if each and every one of them own up to their role, tender well-intentioned apologies and commit to be of good character, show respect to Edo people, toe the path of honour and have the decency of admitting to the fact that they spread lies and concocted fake stories to sell their mandate and attempted to dupe the courts, Edo people may show some mercy. After all, Governor Obaseki is a reasonable man. Edo people are reasonable people.

"It is the most honourable thing to do; it is the most noble step to take. Governor Obaseki, we once again congratulate you and the good patient people of Edo State as your resetting Edo a right path," the statement stated.

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