The trial of former Director General, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi(FIIRO), Mr Chima Igwe for certificate forgery continued on Monday before an Ikeja Special Offences Court as an Investigator with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Mrs Vera Esidene narrated how anti-corruption agency nailed Igwe.
Mrs Esidene told the court that ICPC received three petitions calling for the investigation of Mr Igwe. She is the first prosecution witness during trial of Igwe over alleged certificate fraud.
While being led in evidence by a member of the ICPC prosecuting team, Mr Kehinde Adetoye, Esidene said that in 2019, three petitions were written against the embattled Igwe calling for the investigation of his PhD certificate.
“The first was titled ‘Forged PhD Certificate by Chima Igwe,’ the second was titled ‘Call to Probe the PhD Certificate’ and the third petition was titled ‘Demand for Immediate Probe and Request for the PhD Certificate’,” she said.
The ICPC investigator said that upon receiving the petitions, the Commission assigned the case to her team and they immediately
swung into action.
“Part of our strategy was to write letters to the defendant, to FIIRO, invite some of the staff, we also wrote letters requesting some documents from the staff precisely the defendants letter of approval to enable him seek for his PhD.
“We requested for the letter he submitted after he claimed to have completed the program. We also requested for his promotion letter and an extract of the board meeting minutes held at FIIRO,” she said.
During her testimony, Adetoye requested that the three petitions that were written against Igwe be tendered into evidence.
Defence counsel, Mr Victor Opara (SAN) however objected to the submission of the prosecutor on the grounds the copies of three documents (petitions) were not original copies and as a result, fell short of the requirements of Section 86 of the Evidence Act.
“Where the original is not presented, a reason must be given to your lordship. There is no foundation as to where the original is.
“The makers of this document were not brought and the witness is not the maker. I refer your lordship to Section 83(1)(b) of the Evidence Act. As a result, this document remains ‘documentary hearsay’,” he said.
Responding, the lead prosecutor of the ICPC team, Mr Henry Emore said that the copies of petitions are public documents.
“The documents are from private citizens but were addressed to the Chairman, ICPC. Immediately these documents were received by the ICPC, they became public documents.
“The witness has presented the documents in their proper form and we have met all requirements for certification of the documents under Section 104 of the Evidence Act,” he said.
Justice Sherifat Solebo in a ruling admitted the petitions into evidence noting that there was no need to bring the authors of the petitions to court for the petitions to be admissible as evidence.
“The petitions are fundamental to this trial. The Certified True Copies of any public document is admissible in evidence not the original.
“There is nothing proscribing the admissibility of these three documents. I hereby admit them as Exhibits A1, A2 and A3,” Solebo said.
The case was adjourned till Feb. 22 for continuation of trial.