Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday adjourned till Thursday, hearing in the alleged certificate forgery suit against the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
The adjournment was for parties to adopt their final written addresses as their brief of arguments in the suit, which expires on Saturday, January 9, 2021.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its chieftains, Mr Williams Edobor, had dragged Obaseki to court for allegedly forging his University of Ibadan (UI) 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 in the suit filed on July 14, 2019, want the court to disqualify Obaseki and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), from the poll, in the event that Obaseki is found to have forged his university certificate obtained from UI in 1979.
Obaseki had won the election under the platform of the PDP, while the APC with its governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, came second.
Sued alongside Obaseki and the PDP is the electoral umpire, INEC.
In proving their allegations, the plaintiffs called in a total of six witnesses including two associate professors, who tendered their individual certificates obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1978 and 1979 respectively.
But in his defence, which started on Tuesday, Obaseki called three 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.
His first witness, one Charity Aguobawekhina, who claimed to have made the photocopy for Obaseki, also explained that the absence of the name of the Registrar and date of issue in the photocopy was as a result of improper photocopying process.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, the first defendant also called another witness from UI, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, a Professor of Comparative Politics.
The Professor, who was appearing in the matter as a subpoenaed witness, tendered a Certified True Copy (CTC) of a Bachelor of Science degree certificate in Political Science that was awarded to him by the University of Ibadan on July 6, 1979.
The certificate was admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibit D18.
Under cross-examination, the witness told the court that he is aware that the original size of certificate of University of Ibadan is bigger than an A4 paper size.
“I know for a fact that when A4 paper is used to photocopy a certificate, all the information on the certificate will not be captured.
“I know this because I had a personal experience trying to photocopy an original certificate with an A4 paper,” he said.
He told the court that the copy of his own certificate, that was tendered in evidence, was photocopied with a paper that was bigger than A4 paper, adding that it was the reason why all the information was captured.
However, after the witness was discharged from the witness box, lead counsel to Obaseki, Mr Ken Mozia (SAN), who had on Tuesday told the court that he had five witnesses lined up to defend his client, announced that he would not be calling other witnesses who though were around the court premises because of want of time for the determination of the case.
Raising similar concern for want of time, counsel to the PDP, Mr. Rasaq Isenalumhe, informed the court that he will also not be calling any of the witnesses scheduled for the case “in the interest of justice”.
According to the judge, going by the law, the 180 days for the hearing and determination of the suit ends on Saturday, January 9.
With barely three days to go and counsel yet to make their addresses for and against the suit, it implies that hearing may continue till the last day if such decisions and sacrifices were not made.
Following the non objection by the plaintiffs, Justice Mohammed then stood down the case for a few minutes to enable counsel agree on how best to go in the case.
When the matter resumed some minutes later, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), who spoke on behalf of other lawyers, informed the court that they have “agreed to prepare, exchange and file written addresses which they will adopt on Thursday afternoon”.
His position was confirmed by other lawyers in the suit and Justice Mohammed subsequently adjourned till Thursday for parties to adopt their final written addresses as their arguments in the case.