From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The controversy surrounding the educational qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari for the February 23 presidential election, took center stage at the presidential election petition tribunal with more revelations emerging on the issue on Tuesday.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2015 claimed that his certificates were with the military board on request, one of his witnesses, Major General Paul Tarfa, (Rtd) who claimed to have been enlisted in the Nigerian Army with President Buhari on April 16, 1962, however denied that they were ordered to submit their certificates to the military board.
Tarfa, who made the disclosure while answering a question from lead counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman, insisted that the Nigerian Army never asked them to surrender their certificate in 1962 for whatever reason.
When asked by Usman to confirm that the army had asked them to submit their certificates in 1962, Tarfa was emphatic in his response, that “there was nothing of such during our time”.
He however confirmed English as the official language of communication during their time in the Army.
Under cross examination by Atiku and PDP’s lead counsel, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu SAN, the first defense witness said that President Buhari being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has all military formations under him.
Another witness and current Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Alhaji Abba Kyari, who claimed to have known Buhari for nearly 40 years, stunned the tribunal when he confessed that he received and signed for Buhari’s Cambridge WASC Certificate 12 days ago.
Kyari had told the tribunal that Buhari possess credit in five subjects including English Language in his West African School Certificate WASC examination conducted by Cambridge University.
But under cross examination by Uzoukwu, Kyari told the tribunal that he personally received and signed for Buhari’s Cambridge University WASC Certificate on July 18, 2019.
The witness further admitted that Buhari, in his Curriculum Vitae, listed the schools he attended but did not list any of the certificates obtained.
He also admitted not being Buhari’s classmate at any time and never a member of the Army, adding that he was not in possession of any of Buhari’s certificates.
Further cross examined by Atiku’s counsel, Kyari admitted that the Diploma Certificate in Strategic Studies he claimed Buhari possessed in his witness statement was not listed in Buhari’s CV.
While he told the tribunal that Atiku was a Cameroonian by birth, he however admitted he never knew nor met Atiku’s father and grandfather.
Another witness, Sule Mai’Adua a retired Civil Servant, admitted that he attended the same secondary school with Buhari and that he took photograph with him while they were in Class Six.
He also told the tribunal that he wrote WASC examination in 1961 with Buhari and that Buhari has two certificates.
When asked to read the army’s statement that Buhari’s certificates were not in his personal file with the military, the witness said he was never in the Army and does not know the position of the Army, but insisted that Buhari has two certificates.
Earlier, Buhari through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, had tendered series of documents including newspaper publication, receipts and certified true copies of WASC certificate, confidential result sheet from Provincial Secondary School and acopy of Buhari’s CV duly signed by him as exhibits.
Although, both INEC and All Progressives Congress (APC) did not object to the admissibility of the documents, Atiku and PDP registered their opposition to the admissibility of the documents, but reserved reasons to the objection till the final address stage.
According to them the documents were not pleaded and listed as documents to be tendered, adding that it was shocking to know that the documents were only filed today, July 30, 2019.
The trial continues Wednesday, July 31.
In an interview with journalists shortly after the day’s proceedings, Atiku’s counsel, Uzoukwu, said that Buhari himself had confirmed the petitioners’ position that he has no certificate.
Ozoukwu said that it is an irony for Abba Kyari to have claimed that he received and signed for Buhari’s WASC Certificate of 1961 this July 18, adding that no institution in the world allows a third party to collect certificate on behalf of another person.