By Olalekan Awojodu
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja will tomorrow (Monday) commence a full scale hearing into the University of Ibadan Degree Certificate forgery suit instituted against the Edo state governor Mr Godwin Obaseki by the All Progressive Congress APC.
The certificate forgery suit is part of a fresh concerted move to unseat Obaseki from office by APC by seeking to quash his nomination by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the last governorship poll.
The court action was instituted by the aggrieved APC on July 14. shortly after the then opposition party, PDP in Edo state adopted Obaseki as its governorship candidate for the September I9 election.
The suit abandoned by APC since July 14 was revived by the party to press for ouster of Obaseki from the seat of power in Edo state having defeated it’s governorship candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the gubernatorial poll.
To fight the Lagos battle, APC has assembled a legal team of five Senior Advocates of Nigeria led by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Chief Akin Olujimi for the legal fireworks.
However, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja fixed today November 16, 2020, for full blast hearing
following a request to that effect by
Olujimi, SAN who is leading counsel for APC and a chieftain, Mr Edobor Williams.
The plaintiffs, APC and Williams had dragged Obaseki, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court over alleged forgery of a degree of the University of Ibadan.
In the suit marked FHC/B/CS/74/2020, the plaintiffs specifically prayed the court for an order disqualifying Obaseki from contesting the September 19 governorship election in Edo State on the grounds that he supplied false information on oath to INEC, an act said to be contrary to Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
The suit which was filed on July 14, 2020 at the Benin Division of the Federal High Court, suffered some setbacks before it was set down for hearing on Wednesday by Justice Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
When the matter was mentioned Olujimi, announced appearance for the plaintiffs, while Chief Ken Mozia, SAN and Mr Rasaq Isenalumhe announced appearance for Obaseki and PDP respectively while INEC had no representation.
Olujimi, who informed the court that the matter was for mention prayed the court to adjourn for speedy hearing of the suit in view of the limited time for life span of the suit.
Responding, Obaseki’s lawyer, Chief Mozia, noted that although he was not objecting to the request for adjournment but drew the Judge’s attention to a motion on notice he filed challenging the competence of some processes contained in the processes files by the APC.
Before granting the adjournment request of the plaintiffs, Justice Mohammed reminded parties in the matter that the suit was filed on July 14 and being a pre election matter, has a life span of 180 days and so will terminate in January 14 next year.
He then urged the lawyers to cooperate with the court so that the matter could be determined one way or the other before the expiry date.
According to the Judge, since both parties would have to call witnesses to give evidence and cross exam with regards to the disputed issues, they must be mindful of the life span of the matter.
He subsequently adjourned the matter to November 16, 17 and 18 for the APC and Williams o open and close their case while Obaseki would do same thereafter.
The plaintiffs in the writ of summons specifically accused the governor of forging his university degree certificate presented to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election in Edo State.
They also claimed that there are discrepancies in the subject Obaseki claimed he passed in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) exam and that in his testimonial.
Consequently, they want the court to declare that Obaseki’s claim in his INEC form EC9 at column C, sworn to on 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 also want the court to declare 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.
“A declaration that the 1st defendant is disqualified from contesting election to the office of Governor of Edo State for non-fulfillment of the constitutional requirement in section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution of Nigeria and upon presenting false/forged certificate to INEC contrary to Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010”.
Plaintiffs also urged the court to declare that the PDP, “having sponsored a candidate who supplied false information on oath and presented false/forged certificates to INEC is not entitled to participate in the election scheduled for September 19 or on any other date that may be appointed for the purpose”.
They therefore prayed the court for an order disqualifying Obaseki and the PDP from the September 19 governorship election as well as an order directing INEC to remove the name of the PDP and its candidate from the ballot paper or election records or materials.