Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki on Tuesday began the defence in the alleged certificate forgery suit against him by tendering originals copies of his academic certificates which were admitted in evidence by the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
This came as the University of Ibadan has confirmed to the Court that it issued a Bachelor of Arts certificate to him in 1979.
The institution however said the photocopy the Governor submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is incomplete.
The certificates admitted by Justice Ahmed Mohammed were First School Leaving Certificate obtained in 1971, Ordinary Level Certificate obtained in 1973, and his Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976.
The rest were a Bachelor of Arts Degree Certificate issued by the University of Ibadan in 1979 and a Master’s Degree Certificate issued to him by the Pace University in New York, the United States in 1994.
The documents were presented in court through his first witness, Charity Aguobawekhina who testified to their originality.
Although lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Akin Olujimi (SAN), objected to the admissibility of the primary school certificate and original copy of the University of Ibadan degree certificate on the ground that they were not frontloaded, he however reserved his objections to his final written address.
“My Lord, we are objecting to the original copy of the University of Ibadan degree certificate. It was not frontloaded. We reserve our full argument on the objection until our final address.
“To be fair to the first defendant, we will not be objecting to the admissibility of the Pace University certificate”, Olujimi submitted.
Speaking earlier under cross-examination, Mr. Aguobawekhina told the court that he was the one that photocopied Obaseki’s certificate that was attached to the nomination form that was submitted to INEC.
the court that the photocopy was made from Obaseki’s original certificate.
But when asked why the signature of the Registrar of the University of Ibadan and the date the certificate was issued did not reflect in the photocopy, the witness said: “It is true my lord that part of Exhibit D4 was not captured by the photocopier, ostensibly because the size of the original certificate is bigger than the A4 paper that was used.
It was not only the date and signature of the Registrar that were cut off, but even the signature of the Vice-Chancellor also was not fully reproduced in the photocopy that was attached to the Form EC9 as it was not fully captured by the photocopying machine.
“What was, however, captured by the photocopier was a direct reflection of the original copy of the certificate. It is not true that the photocopy of the University of Ibadan certificate of the first defendant attached to the Form EC9 was forged.
“I did not forge the photocopy of the 1st Defendant’s degree certificate.
“Apart from being a political associate of the first defendant, I double as his informal adviser on matters of this nature. So when he was going to Abuja to fill his Form EC9, I accompanied him.
“So, while he was filling the Nomination Form, he asked me to make photocopies of all the documents attached to the said form, including Exhibit D4.
“I made five copies each and attached one set of each to the form already filled by him. We then went to the FCT High Court Abuja where the first defendant deposed to an oath before the Commissioner of oath.
“We then came back to the PDP Secretariat where the documents were submitted to the National Secretary of the party, who uploaded them to INEC server by scanning. I was there.
“I did not know that the photocopy did not reflect all the parts of the certificate until it became an issue”, the witness stated, adding that Obaseki’s nomination form was uploaded into INEC’s portal on June 29, 2020.
Meanwhile, the University, which was summoned through a subpoena issued on it by the court, said it was not true that Obaseki forged the certificate he attached to Form EC9 (Nomination Form) he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the purpose of the gubernatorial election that held in the state on September 19, 2020.
The University was represented in court by it’s Deputy Registrar Legal, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi on the strength of the subpoena that was served on the Registrar of the University.
Asked under cross-examination to confirm that the copy Obaseki attached to the nomination form he submitted to INEC was forged, the witness said: “I will not regard it as forged, but I will regard it as an incomplete photocopy.”
“This is because the certificate issued by the University is larger than the paper size on which the photocopy was done. In the process, the date of issue and signature of the Registrar, S. J. Okudu was cut off, likewise the signature of the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tekena Tamuno.”
The witness further told the court that the Minister of State for Education had earlier forwarded Obaseki’s certificate to the school for verification.
Ajayi equally said demonstrations the school carried out revealed that some part of the certificate was cut off, owing to the size of paper that was used.
He thereafter tendered three different versions of a Bachelor of Arts degree belonging to another student, which the school photocopied in A3, A4 and A5 papers, to buttress the point.