Says Plaintiffs failed to prove their allegations
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Respite came the way of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State on Saturday, as the Federal High Court in Abuja, dismissed the certificate forgery case the All Progressives Congress, APC, and one of its members, Mr. Williams Edobor, instituted against him.
The court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, held that the Plaintiffs, 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 levelled against Obaseki bordered on crime and therefore required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“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 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 the Independent National Electoral Commission”, the court noted.
It held that 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,
Mr. 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 the genuity of the 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 had in the suit it jointly filed with one of its members in Edo, Mr. Edobor, alleged that Obaseki forged the University of Ibadan degree certificate he submitted to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election that held in Edo state on September 19, 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 June 29, 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.
The INEC was listed as the 3rd Defendant in the matter.
The Plaintiffs closed their case after they called a total of six witnesses and tendered 17 exhibits before the court, while Obaseki rested his case after he tendered 18 exhibits and produced three witnesses that testified on his behalf.
Among exhibits, he tendered before the court included the original copy of the Bachelor of Arts degree certificate that was awarded to him by the University of Ibadan in 1979, which the APC insisted was forged.
Other exhibits the embattled governor adduced before the court to prove his qualification, were the School Certificate the West African Examination Council, WAEC issued to him in June 1973, a Higher School Certificate which WAEC also issued to him in 1976, as well as the original copy of his Primary School Certificate issued in July 1971.
While PDP which is the 2nd Defendant in the matter, relied on Obaseki’s defence, INEC, said it had no witnesses to call in the matter.