The Federal High Court in Abuja on Saturday dismissed the certificate forgery suit instituted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) against Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The judge, Ahmed Mohammed, dismissed the suit on the grounds that the forgery allegations were not proved.
The suit was filed by APC along with one of its members, Williams Edobor, on July 14, 2020.
Mr Obaseki had won the September 2020 election on the platform of the Peoples Demoratic Party (PDP) platform to clinch second term in office.
Sued by the plaintiffs as co-defendants in the suit were Mr Obaseki, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The plaintiffs accused the governor of forging his Bachelor of Art in Classical Studies certificate which he submitted to INEC in support of his nomination as the candidate of PDP in the September 2020 Edo State governorship election.
They also alleged that with Mr Obaseki having only three credits in Religious Knowledge, History, and Geography, without a credit pass in English Language in his O’Level result, the governor failed to meet the minimum requirement to be admitted to the University of Ibadan (UI), and could not have been admitted into the university in 1976 and graduated in 1979.
The plaintiffs alleged that the O’Level result purportedly issued by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) was forged.
They added that Mr Obaseki failed to submit his primary school leaving certificate to INEC, an alleged failure they claimed cast doubts on whether the governor attended a primary school to be qualified to attend a secondary school and sit for the WAEC examinations.
They also maintained that the UI certificate submitted to INEC by Mr Obaseki for the 2016 election was different from the one he tendered in 2020, a claim they held as a proof that the governor did not possess an authentic university certificate.
The plaintiffs asked the court to disqualify Mr Obaseki and his party from the September 2020 election for lying on oath and forgery, a prayer if granted would have paved the way for the APC and its governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to be declared the winner of the election.
Delivering judgment on Saturday, Mr Mohammed said: “he who alleges must prove” adding that the plaintiffs failed in that regard.
“None of the witnesses called by the plaintiffs was able to prove that the certificates were forged,” the judge held.
“Interestingly, all the witnesses admitted that none of them went to the University of Ibadan to confirm the authenticity of the certificate.
“What played out in this case is that plaintiffs only relied on photocopies that were attached to the Form EC9 the first defendant (Mr Obaseki) submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
He held that despite that the allegation of forgery was criminal in nature and required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, “the plaintiffs failed to bring any evidence not to talk of proving the allegation beyond reasonable doubt”.
“In this instant case, no evidence, not to talk of proof beyond reasonable doubt, was brought to prove the allegation of forgery against the first defendant,” he said.
The judge said, “The evidence of the plaintiffs is at variance with their allegations.”
The judge noted that the original copies of the various certificates of academic qualification of Mr Obaseki including his UI degree certificate tendered in court were “direct evidence” which the plaintiffs were unable to puncture.
Mr Mohammed also relied on the testimony of the Deputy Registrar, Legal, of the University of Ibadan, Abayomi Ajayi, who confirmed that Mr Obaseki was duly admitted to the university as a direct entry student to study Classics in 1976.
According to the judge, Mr Ajayi confirmed, in his testimony, that Mr Obaski, despite not having a credit pass in his O’Level result, met the admission requirement to study Classics which was later renamed Classical Studies and duly graduated in 1979.
He noted that the plaintiffs were unable to puncture the testimony of a representative of the university “whose evidence he said laid the case to rest”.
“The case of the plaintiff can be likened to a situation where a father identifies his son as his biological father and another person contests it without providing another father,” the judge said.
“Having thoroughly analysed the evidence in this case it is the conclusion of this court that the first defendant did not forge his O’Level certificate, his HSC (High School Certificate), and particularly his University of Ibadan degree certificate.
“Accordingly the plaintiffs’ case is dismissed with no order as to cost.”
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