A United States court in Eastern Illinois has ordered the Chicago State University to release the academic records of President Bola Tinubu to his rival presidential candidate in the 25 February election, Atiku Abubakar.
Jeffrey Gilbert, a US magistrate judge, gave the ruling on Tuesday, ordering the university to produce "all relevant and non-privileged documents" to Atiku within two days.
On 2 August, Atiku filed an application requesting from the university the academic documents of Mr Tinubu. Atiku, a former vice president of Nigeria, is challenging the authenticity of the Chicago State University diploma Mr Tinubu presented to the INEC before the election.
The former vice president argued that among other things, a "second Chicago State University diploma has since emerged (dated June 27, 1979) that bears the name "Bola Ahmed Tinubu" but also presents with a different font, punctuation, seal, and signatures, than the June 22, 1979 diploma, among other alleged discrepancies."
Mr Atiku told the US that he wanted to authenticate these documents whether a "Chicago State University diploma in the name of Bola Ahmed Tinubu dated June 22, 1979, that was submitted to the INEC before the Nigerian presidential election in February 2023 is genuine or was forged."
Atiku added that "under Nigerian law, the submission of a fraudulent document to the INEC would have disqualified President Tinubu from participating in the election."
When Atiku filed his application in the US district court on 2 August, his petition challenging the presidential election was pending before the Nigerian Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Therefore, Atiku said his application in the US court was to obtain discoveries that would support his petitions in the Nigerian court of appeal.
Court documents show that a day after Atiku's application was filed, President Tinubu filed a motion to join in the suit. The judge granted the motion to intervene on 7 August.
In his intervention, Mr Tinubu contended that the discovery Atiku sought was not relevant to the Nigerian proceedings because issues regarding his educational background were not referenced specifically in Atiku's petition filed with the court of appeal.
"Those matters instead were raised in Atiku's reply materials filed in support of the petition," Mr Tinubu told the US court, adding that "the Nigerian Court of Appeal declined to consider issues related to Mr Tinubu's educational background that had not been included in Petition but rather were belatedly raised for the first time in Atiku's petition."
Atiku responded that in his intended appeal of the Presidential Election Petition Court's decision, the Supreme Court of Nigeria could consider new evidence in "exceptional circumstances under the Nigerian Electoral Act of 2022 and/or in its discretion, and he provides a declaration to that effect from his counsel in the Nigerian Proceedings."
The court said it agreed with Atiku.
The former vice president requested four documents from Chicago State University".
They are: "true and correct copies of (1) an exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma issued to President Tinubu in 1979; (2) Intervenor's diploma issued in 1979; (3) any exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma that "contains the same font, seal, signatures, and wording as contained in Exhibit C to the First Liu Declaration, which purports to be a CSU diploma issued to Mr Tinubu on or about June 22, 1979;" and (4) the CSU documents that were certified and produced by Jamar Orr (an associate general counsel at CSU) as well as communications relating to these documents."
In its ruling, the US court said: "For all of the reasons discussed above, Atiku Abubakar's Application Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782 for an Order Directing Discovery from Chicago State University for Use in a Foreign Proceeding [ECF No. 1] is granted. Respondent CSU shall produce all relevant and non-privileged documents in response to Requests for Production
"The deposition of respondent's corporate designee shall proceed within two days of the production of documents. The parties can modify the dates set by the court by mutual agreement. Given the tight time frame under which the parties are operating, the deposition can, if necessary, occur on a non-weekday," the court added.
Nigerian PEPC judgement
On 6 September, a five-member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court led by Haruna Tsammani, dismissed Atiku's petition challenging Mr Tinubu's election.
The five-member court held that Atiku failed to prove the allegations of electoral fraud against Nigeria's electoral commission, INEC and Mr Tinubu.
But, Atiku through his team of lawyers, led by Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that the PEPC's judgement occasioned "grave error and miscarriage of justice" in its legal reasoning by upholding Mr Tinubu's election as president.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that on 18 September, Atiku filed an appeal at the Supreme Court urging the apex court to set aside the lower court's affirmation of Mr Tinubu's election and order INEC to conduct a second election (run-off) between him and Mr Tinubu. He urged the court to declare that Mr Tinubu did not secure a majority of lawful votes cast during the presidential election on 25 February.