A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed will on Saturday deliver judgment in the certificate forgery case against Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki brought before it by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and one of its members, Williams Edobor. Mohammed, on Thursday announced the date for his verdict after all the parties had adopted their final briefs of argument. By the provision of section 285 (10) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the statutory 180 days for the trial court to determine the pre-election suit would terminate midnight on Saturday.
Adopting his final written address, Obaseki, through his counsel, Ken Mozia, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to prove their allegation that the governor submitted forged credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, represented by Razaq Isenalohme, prayed the court to not only dismiss the suit but to do so with substantial cost. The election umpire, INEC, however chose to remain neutral. Counsel to INEC, M. N. Bawa, reminded the court that it did not file any process in the matter. In his words, “My Lord, we did not file any process throughout the proceedings. We consistently remained neutral. In the circumstance, we will be urging the court to decide the matter one way or the other based on processes before this court”.
On his part, counsel to the plaintiffs, Akin Olujimi, SAN, urged the court to grant all his clients’ prayers. The APC and Edobor had alleged in their suit that Obaseki forged the University of Ibadan degree certificate he submitted to INEC ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the state. In the suit marked FHC/B/CS/74/2020, the plaintiffs further alleged that there were discrepancies in the subjects that Obaseki claimed he passed in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination and subjects in his testimonial.
They are therefore praying the court to declare that Obaseki’s claim in his INEC form EC9 at column C, sworn to 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. They are also seeking 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 INEC was listed as the 3rd Defendant in the matter.
The Plaintiffs closed their case on Monday after they had called a total of six witnesses and tendered 17 exhibits before the court. Similarly, Obaseki, who is the 1st Defendant in the matter, closed his case after producing three witnesses who testified on his behalf. He also tendered a total of 18 exhibits. Exhibits tendered before the court included the original copy of the contentious Bachelor of Arts degree certificate issued to him by the University of Ibadan in 1979, WAEC certificate issued to him June 1973, a Higher School Certificate, HSC, which WAEC also issued to him in 1976, as well as the original copy of his Primary School Certificate issued in July 1971.
While the PDP told the court that it would rely on Obaseki’s defence, INEC said it had no witness to call in the matter.