By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
It was a dance party for Governor Godwin Obaseki and his friends this Saturday as a viral video showed after a Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed a University of Ibadan Degree certificate forgery suit instituted by the All Progressive Congress APC against Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, for want of merit.
Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed dismissed the suit on the grounds that both APC and one of its chieftains, Edobor Williams, failed to prove allegations of forgery against Obaseki.
According to the judge, the plaintiffs reliance on photocopies of Obaseki’s credentials without checking the original copies before institutiing the forgery case against Obaseki was fatal to their case..
He held that none of the witnesses called by the plaintiffs confirmed ever seeing Obaseki’s original certificate, or visited the University of Ibadan or other relevant educational bodies to verify the authenticity of Obaseki’s certificates submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the September 19 governorship poll in Edo State.
APC and one Edobor Williams had dragged Obaseki to court for allegedly forging his University of Ibadan (UI) degree certificate as well as other certificates he submitted to INEC for the governorship election.
In the suit filed on July 14, 2019, the plaintiffs are asking the court to disqualify Obaseki and his party, from the poll, in the event that Obaseki was found to have forged his university certificate obtained from UI in 1979.
They further submitted that Obaseki did not meet the minimum requirement for admission for a first degree course in 1976.
In proving their case 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 defense, 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.
Delivering judgment on Saturday, Justice Mohammed who held that he who alleged must prove, noted that the plaintiffs failed to lead credible evidence to substantiate their claims that Obaseki submitted forged or false documents to INEC.
He said plaintiffs only relied on photocopies instead of going to the various institution to verify Obaseki’s claim regarding his certificates, adding that Obaseki through his witnesses were able to explain convincingly the discrepancies in the certificates.
The judge further stated that the issue of forgery is a criminal offence which requires that the allegations must be proved beyond reasonable. He said that the case of the plaintiffs lacked evidence talk less of been proven beyond reasonable doubt, adding that the evidence brought before the court was at variance with the allegations.
While noting that Obaseki on his part called witnesses who tendered direct evidence in his defense, the judge held that Obaseki’s presentation of his original copies of all his certificates put to rest any claim that he forged his certificates.
He added that one of the witnesses from the University of Ibadan, Mr Abayomi Ajayi went further to show that Obaseki actually graduated from the UI in 1979 and met all necessary requirements to gain admission into the faculty of Arts where he bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Studies.
“It is my conclusion that plaintiffs failed to prove their allegations of forgery against the defendants.
“Plaintiffs case has failed and it is accordingly dismissed”, the court held.
INEC had declared Obaseki winner of the September 19 governorship poll having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the poll.