SUPREME COURT DISMISSES CERTIFICATE FORGERY CASE AGAINST GOVERNOR OBASEKI
…Awards N1m cost against APC and Edobor
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the certificate forgery case brought against the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and one of its chieftains, Williams Edobor.
APC and Edobor had approached the apex court to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division which freed Obaseki of the certificate forgery allegation.
A panel of Justices of the apex court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim on Friday evening held that the appellants failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
The court added that the appellants failed woefully to prove their case as they did not provide any disclaimer from the school that the certificate, whose authenticity they challenged, was not issued to Obaseki by the institution.
The court then upheld the March 18, 2021 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which earlier affirmed the January 9, 2021 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, upholding the authenticity of the first degree certificate in Classics issued to Obaseki by the University of Ibadan (UI).
The court then awarded N1 million cost against APC and its Chieftain, Edobor, in favour of Governor Obaseki.
The Court of Appeal had, in a unanimous judgment delivered in March this year, held that the appeal the APC and Edobor filed to set aside the January 9 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which authenticated Obaseki’s University of Ibadan degree certificate, lacked merit.
The three-member panel of justices of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah held that it found no reason to dislodge the judgment of the trial court in the matter and also added that the appellants failed to prove their case against Obaseki.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court had in his judgement, held that APC and Edobor failed to, by way of credible evidence, discharge the burden of proof placed on them by the law.
Justice Mohammed said there was no iota of evidence before the court to establish that Obaseki forged either his O’level certificate or the degree certificate that was awarded to him in 1979 by the University of Ibadan.
He held that allegation of forgery the Plaintiffs leveled against Obaseki bordered on crime and therefore required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Judge said, “It is quite known that he who alleges must prove. The burden is on the Plaintiffs to lead credible evidence to indeed prove that the 1st Defendant presented forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“None of the witnesses called by the Plaintiffs was able to prove that the certificate was forged.
“In fact, the witnesses admitted that none of them visited the University of Ibadan to confirm the authenticity of the certificate.
“The Plaintiffs only relied on photocopies that were attached to the Form EC9 the 1st Defendant submitted to INEC”, the court held and added that the apparent discrepancies in the documents Obaseki submitted to INEC, “were satisfactorily explained.”
Justice Mohammed further noted that all the witnesses were in agreement that when the original document is photocopied with an A4-sized paper, some information would be cut off.
He said the evidence of witnesses Obaseki produced in the course of the hearing, especially that of the Deputy Registrar Legal, at University of Ibadan, Abayomi Samuel Ajayi, “Successfully put to rest the issue of whether or not the embattled governor graduated or was awarded a degree certificate by the school.
The court held that for the Plaintiffs to insist that Obaseki forged his certificate, even after the school confirmed that his certificate was a genuine a document, was akin to alleging that someone has no father, even in the presence of the person’s father.
Consequently, it dismissed the suit, though it declined to award cost against the Plaintiffs.
The APC and Edobor alleged that Obaseki forged the University of Ibadan degree certificate he submitted to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election held in Edo State on 19 September 2020.
In the suit marked FHC/B/CS/74/2020, the Plaintiffs equally alleged that there were discrepancies in the subjects that Obaseki claimed he passed in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) exam and subjects in his testimonial.
They, among other things, prayed the court to declare that Obaseki’s claim in his INEC form EC9 at column C, sworn to on 29, June 2020, at the Federal Capital Territory High Court Registry to the effect that he obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1979, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classical Studies, is false and contrary to Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
As well as an order declaring that Obaseki lied on oath when he swore to an affidavit on June 29, 2020, that he worked in Afrinvest Limited from 1994 to 2014 when he retired.
The Plaintiffs urged the court to not only invalidate Obaseki’s candidacy but to also restrain INEC from recognising him as a contestant in the gubernatorial contest.