Forgery: Obaseki hails judgement, APC heads to Appeal Court

The All Progressives Congress says it will appeal the court’s dismissal of its certificate forgery case against Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

Obaseki had on Saturday emerged victorious as Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed the certificate forgery case filed against him by the APC and a member of the party, Edobor Williams.

The judge, however, declined to award cost against any party.

The APC and Williams had, in the suit with Ref. No: FHC/B/CS/74/2020, alleged that Obaseki forged his West African School Certificate O/level and A/level.

According to them, the first-degree certificate from the University of Ibadan which the governor submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission in the September 19, 2020 governorship election was forged.

They, therefore, 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.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Mohammed held that the plaintiffs failed to discharge the burden of proof required of them under the law.

He said, “Another fundamental flaw in the case of the plaintiffs is that, while they alleged forgery against the first defendant (Obaseki), the evidence brought is completely at variance with the allegation.”

The judge stressed that, like the plaintiffs, the six witnesses called by them admitted not seeing Obaseki’s original credentials and that their claim that he forged certificates was based on the photocopies of the certificates they saw.

Mohammed held that Obaseki explained, through evidence that the absence of the signature of the Registrar of UI on the photocopy of the degree certificate he submitted to INEC was as a result of an error on the part of the person who photocopied the certificate.

According to him, Obaseki also did not only tender the original copies of his certificates, from primary to university level, he also 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.

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Justice Mohammed, however, said that none of the witnesses called by the plaintiffs was able to prove that the certificates were forged.

He said, “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 from 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 a reasonable doubt.

“No iota of evidence, not to talk of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as required by law, was brought by the plaintiffs to substantiate the allegation of forgery against the first defendant.

“A situation where the plaintiffs have not bothered to inquire from the University of Ibadan whether the degree certificate presented by the first defendant was validly issued or not, is, in my humble view, a complete failure on the part of the plaintiffs to discharge the burden of proving an allegation of forgery against the first defendant.”

Reacting to the development, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC in Edo State, Col David Imuse (retd), said the party would appeal Saturday’s ruling.

In a statement signed by Edo APC Publicity Secretary, Chis Azebanwan, Imuse said the party’s legal team would immediately move to study the judgement and file an appeal.

“We thank God also for 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,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Obaseki, in a statement on Saturday, said the judgement was a triumph of the rule of law and a testament to the fact that truth would prevail ultimately, “no matter how vehemently detractors push lies in the face of incontrovertible evidence.”

“The verdict of the Federal High Court, delivered by Honourable 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 that justice and truth have prevailed,” the statement read.

Similarly, the PDP has described the court verdict as a victory for democracy and the triumph of justice.

According to a statement in Abuja on Saturday titled, ‘Edo Election: PDP Hails High Court Verdict on Obaseki…Says It is Triumph of Justice,’ and signed by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the judiciary must be commended for upholding justice on the case.

In a related manner, the Edo State PDP Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, chided the APC, saying it rejected the PDP’s advice to join hands with the government to build a society where hard work was rewarded.

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