Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday dismissed the certificate forgery suit filed against the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
The suit was filed by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and a chieftain of the party, Williams Edobor.
The plaintiffs had claimed, in the suit, marked: FHC/B/CS/74/2020 that Obaseki forged his West African School Certificate O/level and A/level, and the first degree certificate from the University of Ibadan (UI), which he submitted to the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) in his bid to contest the September 19, 2020 governorship election.
They, among others, prayed the court to disqualify Obaseki for allegedly breaching Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act and Section 182(1)(J) of the Constitution.
Mohammed, in his judgement held that the plaintiffs relied on the photocopied document presented by Obaseki without getting in touch with the university to verify the authenticity of the certificate and the claimants were unable to prove their case.
According to him, the governor was duly and properly admitted to study Classics which was later renamed Classical Studies in 1976, and graduated in 1979.
Justice Mohammed added that Obaseki also did not only tender the original copies of his certificates, from primary to university level, he called a Deputy Registrar from UI, who confirmed that the governor attended the institution and that the certificate he parades is genuine, authentic and was duly issued to him by the school.
But, on the part of the plaintiffs, Justice Mohammed noted that none of the witnesses they called was able to prove that the certificates were forged.
He added: “Interestingly, all the defendants admitted, under cross-examination, that none visited UI to verify the authenticity of the first defendant’s degree certificate
“One would have expected the plaintiffs or any other witnesses to endeavour to check or enquire for the university authorities about the authenticity of the degree certificate issued to the first defendant.
“What played out in this case is that the plaintiffs only relied on the photocopies. of the first defendant’s certificates, submitted to the third defendant (INEC) via Exhibit PL2 (Form EC9).
“The allegation of forgery bothers on crime, which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“No iota of evidence, talk less of proof beyond reasonable doubt, as required law, was brought by the plaintiffs to substantiate the allegation of forgery against the first defendant.”
The judge added that the Deputy Registrar (Legal) of the University of Ibadan had given evidence in the suit that the university duly issued the certificate to Obaseki.
Justice Mohammed thereby dismissed the case.
Reacting to the judgement, Obaseki and the PDP described it as triumph of the rule of law.
“The verdict of the FHC, Abuja, delivered by Hon. Justice Ahmed Mohammed, is well received and a victory for the rule of law. It was a most needless attempt by desperate individuals trying to undo the will of the people through the backdoor, but we are happy today (yesterday) that justice and truth have prevailed.
“The verdict confirms, once again, that Edo people were well-guided in trusting me to lead them in the September 19, 2020 governorship election.
“I promise to continue to prioritise the development of Edo State, not minding the darts thrown by those who are embittered by their loss and continue their attempts to put spanner in the works, even when they have been roundly beaten on all fronts,” said Obaseki.
For its part, the PDP in Edo, through its publicity secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, described the judgement as a testimony to the fact that the government was enthroned by the wish of Edo people and had the blessings of God.
“It is now clear that Edo APC and the stories that the members propagated were built on falsehood, social greed, intellectual imbecility and pathological irresponsibility. Edo people are advised not to only punish them with their votes on election days, but to consider them public enemy number one, henceforth.
Also reacting, the APC, Edo State chapter, said it would appeal the ruling.
The chairman of its Caretaker Committee, Col. David Imuse (rtd.), said the party’s legal team would immediately move to study the judgement and file an appeal.
He hoped the judiciary would remain upright and would always ensure that the will of the people and rule of law prevail.
“We thank God for also granting all the lawyers and the judge very good health, with which they all contributed to bringing the whole litigation process to this interesting stage. It is not the end of the road.
“All APC members in Edo State are very hopeful, like the good democrats and believers in the rule of law that they are, that the judiciary will continue to show that it is the last hope of the common man.
“I plead with all APC members in Edo State to be calm and to go about their normal activities without animosity, as the party appeals the verdict.”
It would be recalled that the APC and Edobor had filed the suit alleging that Obaseki presented a forged certificate to seek re-election in the Edo State governorship election held on September 19, 2020.
They alleged that the forged document was issued by the University of Ibadan, while the governor presented same to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which conducted the poll.
Trouble began for Obaseki during the buildup to his re-election bid under APC – he was APC’s candidate for the first term election.
Obaseki was denied re-nomination by the APC after a fall out with his successor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who was then the national chairman of the party.
The governor later defected to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while Osagie Ize-Iyamu emerged as the APC flag bearer for the election.
Obaseki had defeated Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate in the 2016 governorship election while the latter was the PDP candidate.
In 2020 again, Obaseki won Ize-Iyamu.
He secured 307,955 of the total votes, 84,336 more votes than Ize-Iyamu who got 223, 619 votes.