The Special Offence court in Ikeja on Wednesday issued a summon to an administrative officer attached to the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Abati Abidemi to testify as a witness in the ongoing alleged certificate forgery of a former Acting Director of the institute, Chima Igwe.
Mr Igwe was arraigned in November 2021 by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for alleged certificate forgery and he pleaded not guilty.
The summon was issued when the prosecution lawyer, Henry Emore notified the judge, Justice Sherifat Adesanya that his second witness, Mr Abidemi said he had been warned by “the chairman” not to appear in court as a witness in the matter.
Immediately, the court issued a subpoena saying that a warrant of arrest be issued if Mr Abidemi failed to obey the court order.
Hence, the matter which was earlier fixed to continue on Thursday, February 24 was rescheduled for June 14, 15 and 16.
Earlier in the hearing, the first prosecution witness, Vera Esideme during cross-examination by the defendant’s lawyer, C. Nwonu affirmed that the investigation team did their best.
She said that Mr Igwe submitted an attestation signed by Mansour Moudathirou, a professor at the Abomey Calabi University in the Benin Republic.
She said that during their investigation, they wrote to the university and sent a team there to verify the suspect’s claim adding that Mr Igwe said he sent the attestation to a French translator and it was translated to mean that he had completed his PhD programme.
“…whereas our finding from the responses to the school says that it is neither a certificate or statement of result,” Ms Esideme said.
“In the course of your investigation, you investigate all the academic records of the defendants?” The lawyer asked.
The witness replied in the affirmative.
Mrs Esideme said they found out that the defendant is a first class graduate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He had a Master’s degree at the University of Lagos and proceeded for his PhD in Benin Republic between 1999 – 2002 “but did not defend the thesis.”
She insisted that the correspondence they received from the University revealed that the defendant did “coursework not research.”
“That attestation is a precursor to the ceremonial public presentation of the thesis?” The defendant lawyer asked.
Responding, Ms Esideme said, “No, it is not a prerequisite.”
“Are you aware that before the attestation was issued to the defendant, the defendant had presented and defended his thesis before core academicians namely, Professor Koumaglo, Professor Chalchat, Professor Mansur?” The lawyer asked.
“He stated that he submitted a thesis and he also defended thise before Professor Mansur and two others. He stated this in about four statements on January 20, 27, 29 and 31, 2020,” Mrs Esideme said.
“It was in the process of verifying his claims that letters were written to the embassy of Benin Republic in Nigeria where we requested to know if he had completed the PhD programme and if the attestation that he submitted was a statement of the result of his certificate and if he applied to the university requesting for the certificate.
“And the embassy wrote back to the commission that the attestation was neither a statement of result nor a certificate. And he did complete the coursework between 1998 and 2001 but had not defended his thesis.
“And the thesis is the prerequisite for you to receive a certificate….”
Mr Nwonu asked if they invited one Segun Ajayi from Arose Group during the investigation. Ms Esideme said no.
“Are you aware that the defendant defended his PhD attestation publicly on the 13th of Feb 2020?” The lawyer asked.
“I’m aware because the correspondence said that he defended his thesis on 13th of February 2020,” but he failed to get his certificate because he failed to defend his thesis publicly,” she replied.
The lawyer pointed out that one of those who petitioned the ICPC against Mr Igwe, Olanrewaju Suraju (Chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) is undergoing trial before the Federal high court in Abuja.
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