The University of Ibadan on Tuesday cleared Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State of certificate forgery allegation levelled against him by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Deputy Chief Registrar, Legal, of the university, Abayomi Ajayi, appeared at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday on a subpoena and confirmed the authenticity of the copy of the first-degree certificate tendered by Mr Obaseki to back his qualification for the September 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
The APC and one of its members, Williams Edobor, in their suit had accused Mr Obaseki of forging his Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies certificate which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission in support of his nomination as a candidate in the Edo State governorship election.
The plaintiffs specifically prayed for the disqualification of Mr Obaseki as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate in the election on the grounds of certificate forgery.
The governor opened his defence in the case on Tuesday with his legal team led by Ken Mozia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, having Mr Ajayi, a representative of UI, summoned to testify as the second defence witness.
Mr Ajayi maintained that from the university records, Mr Obaseki was admitted as a student in 1976 through direct entry.
He said the governor graduated in 1979 during the tenure of Professor Tekena Tamuno as Vice-Chancellor and S.J Okudu as the institution’s registrar.
He explained that the absence of the university registrar’s signature and date of issue of the certificate on the copy submitted to INEC by Mr Obaseki was because it was not properly photocopied.
He maintained that it was possible to have the signature at the bottom of the original certificate containing the registrar’s signature, date of issue and part of the Vice Chancellor’s signature cut off if a photocopy was not properly done.
“I will not regard the photocopy as forged, but incomplete photocopy, because the certificate issued by the university is larger than the paper size on which the photocopy was done, and in the process the date of issue and the signature of the Registrar – S. J. Okudu were cut off. Also, the last part of the signature of Prof Tekena Tamuno, the then VC, was cut off,” the witness said while responding to a question from PDP’s lawyer, Razak Isenalumhe
He said, amid the controversies surrounding the authenticity of the certificate submitted by Mr Obaseki, the Minister of State for Education had in November 2020 sent a copy of the disputed document to the university authorities for verification.
The witness said, “I am not seeing these documents for the first time. The Minister of State for Education had sent the documents to the university in November for confirmation, we demonstrated it by making a photocopy with an A4 paper and the same result was what we got.”
He said the university was able to demonstrate the authenticity of Obaseki’s certificate by photocopying the A3 and A5 paper sizes, as well as a reduced format of a similar certificate in Classical Studies issued to Issac Adekeye Abiona.
According to him, the university used Mr Abiona’s certificate to demonstrate the case at the time because it had no access to Mr Obaseki’s original certificate.
Various documents, including relevant pages of the University of Ibadan calendar for 1976, admission brochure for degrees, award of diplomas and certificates and Mr Obaseki’s application for admission and another one for collection of his certificate from the university, were tendered by the witness and admitted as exhibits by the court.
Earlier, Mr Obaskei’s first witness, Charity Aiguobarueghian, who introduced himself as an advisor to the governor, testified that he was the one who made the photocopy of the original certificate being disputed by the APC.
He noted that the photocopy attached to form EC9 submitted to INEC had some part of it cut off because the document was larger than the paper on which it was photocopied.
He also tendered original copies of Mr Obaseki’s academic certificates, including the one being disputed by the APC.
The documents, which comprised the primary school certificate obtained by Mr Obaseki in 1971, his School Certificate obtained in 1973, the Higher School Certificate obtained in 1971, the University of Ibadan degree certificate obtained in 1979 and his certificate of Master’s degree from Pace University, were admitted by the court as exhibits.
The judge, Ahmed Mohammed, fixed Wednesday for the continuation of hearing.
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