From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Saturday dismissed the alleged certificate forgery suit filed against Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki by his former political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for lacking in merit.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed in his judgment held that the plaintiffs failed to prove the allegations of forgery of certificate contained in their claim before the court.
The judge noted that allegations being criminal in nature ought to have been proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
The judge held that the testimony of the Deputy Registrar of the University of Ibadan, Mr Abayomi Ajayi, was direct evidence that put to rest all the claims of the plaintiffs.
Justice Mohammed faulted the attitude of the plaintiffs, for not making any efforts to cross-check from the University of Ibadan (UI) and the West African Examination Council (WAEC), the two institutions that issued the certificates they claimed Obaseki forged.
‘None of the witnesses called by the plaintiffs was able to prove that the certificate as forged.
‘In fact, the witnesses admitted that none of them visited the University of Ibadan to confirm the authenticity of the certificate.
‘The plaintiffs only relied on photocopies that were attached to the Form EC9 the 1st defendant submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission,’ the court noted.
It held that apparent discrepancies in the documents Obaseki submitted to INEC, ‘were satisfactorily explained.’
The court also noted that all the witnesses were in agreement that when the original document is photocopied with an A4-sized paper, some information would be cut off.
It said the evidence of witnesses Obaseki produced in the course of the hearing, especially that of the Deputy Registrar Legal, at University of Ibadan,
Mr Abayomi Samuel Ajayi ‘successfully put to rest the issue of whether or not the embattled governor graduated or was awarded a degree certificate by the school.
‘The court held that for the plaintiffs to insist that Obaseki forged his certificate, even after the school confirmed the genuity of the document, was akin to alleging that someone has no father, even in the presence of the person’s father.’
Justice Mohammed dismissed the suit, though he declined to award cost against the plaintiffs.
The APC had in the suit it jointly filed with one of its members in Edo, Mr. Edobor, alleged that Obaseki forged the University of Ibadan degree certificate he submitted to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election that held in Edo state on September 19, 2020.
Meanwhile, a former senator and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Yisa Braimoh, has, while commending the judgment, asserted that it is a victory for rule of law and the genuine will of the people of Edo state.
In a statement after the judgment, Senator Braimoh noted that the celebration that erupted in the state following the news of the verdict indicated that the governor is the choice of the people.
He called on Governor Obaseki to hit the ground running in the task of developing Edo state, particularly in his outline of projects in key sectors including, manufacturing, agriculture, oil and gas, power, road infrastructure, education, among others, despite the prevailing fiscal challenges.
The party chieftain further urged Governor Obaseki not to relent but continue in his commitment towards the good of all, in line with the manifesto of the PDP.
The statement reads in part: ‘Today’s landmark judgement ,which dismissed the case of alleged certificate forgery against his Excellency Godwin Obaseki ,is a People’s judgement by the people’s court for the people of EDO state!
‘We, the entire people of Edo State are greatly relieved by this judgement which immediately puts an end to all distractions that have been mitigating against effective governance of Edo State since the electoral landslide victory of 19th Sept 2020 .
‘The people of Edo State are now fully positioned to receive and enjoy dividends of democracy and good governance which the Obaseki/Shuiabu team personify.
‘I wholeheartedly congratulate their excellencies the Governor and deputy Governor of Edo State , the entire PDP family and the people of EDO state for this much expected and well deserved victory at the Federal High Court Abuja today Governor Obaseki , carry go and it’s time to go back to work.’
‘The main plank of the plaintiffs’ case based on pleadings before the court is that Obaseki supplied false information to the 3rd defendant (INEC) in his INEC Form CF0001 with which he contested the September 19, 2020 Governorship election in Edo State
‘That the 1st defendant (Obaseki) has committed the offence of perjury by virtue of the fact that he lied on oath in either the INEC Form CF00I with which he contested the election into the office of the Governor of Edo State in 2016 or that the 2020 election into the office of the Governor of Edo State held on September 19, 2020.’