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S’Court asks Atiku to Prove evidence of forgery against Tinubu beyond reasonable doubt

The Supreme Court has asked the Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the allegations of certificate forgery against Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.


Chairman of the supreme court panel, Justice John Okoro, Monday, issued the ruling following the submission of Atiku’s lead counsel on the matter, Chris Uche, SAN, who urged the court to admit the presentation of fresh evidence by his team during the hearing of the election petition appeals filed by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

Both Atiku of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, are in separate petitions filed before the supreme court, challenging the verdict of the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal, PEPT, which struck out their appeals against the victory of President Bola Tinubu at the February 25 presidential polls.

Recall that prior to commencement of the hearing, Atiku had prayed an Illinois Chicago district court to order the Chicago State University to release the President’s academic records as he accused Tinubu of falsifying the CSU diploma of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration awarded in 1979 that he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Atiku in his plea before the US court, demanded a copy of any diploma issued by CSU in 1979, a copy of the diploma the CSU gave to Tinubu in 1979, and copies of diplomas with the same font, seal, signatures, and wording awarded to other students that are similar to what CSU awarded to him in 1979.

However, Atiku’s application was opposed by Tinubu’s lawyers, citing privacy concerns even as they conceded that only the certificate should be released and no other privileged records.

Conversely, the United States court ordered the release of the ex-Lagos State governor’s academic records which Atiku filed in support of his election petition appeal at the Supreme Court.

Addressing the apex court on Monday, Uche insisted that the issue of Tinubu’s academic records was a weighty matter and urged the Supreme Court to admit it as fresh evidence.

The senior lawyer said, “The issue involving Tinubu’s certificate is a weighty, grave, and constitutional one, which the Supreme Court should admit. I urge the court to admit the fresh evidence of President Tinubu’s academic records from CSU presented by Atiku.

“The court should take a look at Tinubu’s records and reach a decision devoid of technicality. As a policy court, the court has a duty to look at it and should side-step technicalities” adding that the issue of 180 days should not tie the hands of the court.

But Justice Okoro, while describing the matter as criminal in nature, said it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt while stating that he observed that there were two conflicting letters from Chicago State University.

According to him, one of the letters authenticated the President’s certificate and the other discredited it.

He said, “This is a criminal matter that has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. There are two conflicting letters from the CSU: one authenticating the president’s certificate and another discrediting it.”

Another panel member, Justice Emmanuel Agim observed that the deposition Atiku was seeking to tender as evidence was done in the chambers of Atiku’s lawyer and not in the courtroom.

“I expected the college to write disclaiming the documents in dispute. Does a stenographer have the legal authority to administer oaths? We are dealing with a matter that touches on national interest,’’ he noted.

But Uche argued that the depositions were done in the presence of Tinubu’s US lawyers, adding that there was no dispute about it.

The counsel to the All Progressives Congress, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, told the court that Atiku should not be allowed to bring in documents not presented at the tribunal.

He said, “You cannot smuggle in a document into the Supreme Court without first tendering the same at the trial court. The appeal is misconceived and lacks merit. It should be outright dismissed. ”

In his response to Uche’s arguments, the lawyer to the President, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, similarly urged the court not to admit the fresh documents, adding that INEC was not a party to it.

“The depositions are not admissible in the USA. It is akin to deposition which we have in Nigeria. The deposition was not done in court and INEC was not a party to it. The deposition must be adopted by the individual that deposed to it before it can be admitted as evidence before the court,“ he reasoned.

He also said the 180 days stipulated for the conclusion of election petition cases “is like a rock of Gibraltar, it cannot be moved.’’

INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, asked the court to interpret section 285 of the constitution and also urged the court to dismiss the appeal.

The court which had Uwani Aji, Mohammed Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Abubakar Tijjani, as other panel members, however, reserved judgment in the matter.

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