•Governor tenders original copy before court
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Authorities of the University of Ibadan (UI), for the second time since June 2020, have cleared Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, of allegation of forging his degree certificate.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its chieftains, Mr. Williams Edobor, had sued Obaseki for allegedly forging the university certificate he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
The plaintiffs want the court to disqualify Obaseki, who won the election, in the event that he was found to have forged his degree certificate obtained from UI in 1979.
Other defendants in the suit are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC.
The plaintiffs, in proving their allegations, called six witnesses amongst whom are two Associate Professors who graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1978 and 1979 before closing their case on Monday.
Obaseki, in opening his defence yesterday, called in two witnesses among whom is the Deputy Registrar, Legal, University of Ibadan, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi, who told the court that the mere fact that some parts of the original of Obaseki’s degree certificate from the UI were missing in the photocopy he attached to his form EC9 and 001 to INEC did not amount to forgery.
He told the court that the university is not dealing with this allegation for the first time as the Minister of State for Education had once brought the issue before the institution.
The authorities of University of Ibadan before the Federal High Court, sitting in Benin in June last year, had cleared Obaseki of similar forgery allegations, saying that he graduated from the institution and was accordingly awarded the degree certificate of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Classical Studies in 1979.
Ajayi, who was the second witness to be called by the first defendant, and was led in evidence yesterday by Mr. Ken Mozia (SAN), Obaseki’s lawyer, explained that Obaseki’s photocopy was incomplete due to the process of photocopying.
The witness stated that from the records of the university, Obaseki was admitted in 1976 through direct entry and he graduated in 1979 during the tenure of Prof. Tekena Tamuno as vice chancellor and S.J Okufu as registrar.
“I will not regard the photocopy of the original certificate as forged but incomplete photocopy because the certificate of the University of Ibadan is larger than the paper upon which the photocopy was made,” Ajayi added.
He tendered photocopies of various sizes of papers and their outcome when the original was not reduced.
He, however, stated that he was not at the university when Obaseki was a student, adding that he relied on Obaseki’s record at the university to give his evidence.
Other documents he tendered to prove Obaseki was a product of UI included pages of the congregation for admission to degrees, award of diplomas and certificates and 31st Foundation Day Ceremony in September 1979 and Obaseki’s application.
Earlier, the first defence witness, Mr. Charity Aguobawekhina, Chairman of the Edo State Law Reform Commission, tendered the original of Obaseki’s certificates, including the disputed degree certificate.
The witness who claimed to be a close associate of Obaseki, told the court that he made the disputed photocopy Obaseki attached to his nomination form submitted to INEC.
He added that a part of the photocopy attached to form EC9 was cut off because of the largeness of the original certificate.
He tendered the primary school certificate obtained by Obaseki, his School Certificate, Higher School Certificate, University of Ibadan degree obtained in 1979 and another Masters Degree from Pace University obtained by Obaseki as his educational qualification.
All the certificates, which are original copies, were admitted as exhibits by the trial judge.
Under cross-examination, the witness said the photocopy of the degree certificate, which has the signature of the university’s chief registrar, the date of issuance of the certificate and the name of the vice chancellor did not make the photocopy of the certificate a forged document.