The University of Ibadan (UI) authorities, on Tuesday, January 5 cleared Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki of allegation of certificate forgery.
Tuesday’s clearance was the second time since the opposition accused the governor of the offence.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its chieftains, Williams Edobor, had filed a suit against Obaseki at the Federal High Court, Abuja, alleging that the governor forged his university certificate which he tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as part of his qualification for the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to disqualify the first defendant, who won the election, in the event that he forged his university certificate obtained from UI in 1979.
Other defendants in the suit are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC.
The plaintiffs, in proving their allegations, had called six witnesses, including two associate professors who graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1978 and 1979, before closing their case on Monday.
However, opening his defence yesterday, Obaseki called in two witnesses, among whom was the Deputy Registrar, Legal, University of Ibadan, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi, who told the court that the mere fact that some parts of the original of Obaseki’s degree certificate from UI were missing in the photocopy he attached to his Form EC9 and 001 to INEC did not amount to forgery.
He testified that the university is not dealing with this allegation for the first time as the Minister of State for Education had once brought the issue before the institution.
The school authorities had in June 2020 cleared Obaseki of similar forgery allegations before the Federal High Court sitting in Benin. It emphasized that Obaseki graduated from the institution and was accordingly awarded the degree certificate of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Classical Studies in 1979.
Ajayi was the second witness to be called by the first defendant and he told the court that Obaseki’s photocopy was incomplete due to the process of photocopying.
The witness maintained that from the records of the university, Obaseki was admitted as student in 1976 through direct entry and that he graduated in 1979, during the tenure of Professor Tekena Tamino as vice chancellor and S.J Okufu as registrar.
Ajayi said: “I will not regard the photocopy of the original certificate as forged but incomplete photocopy because the certificate of the University of Ibadan is larger than the paper upon which the photocopy was made.”
He consequently tendered photocopies of various sizes of papers and their outcome when the original was not reduced.
Noting that he was not in the university when Obaseki was a student, Ajayi claimed to have relied on Obaseki’s record at the university to give his evidence.
Earlier, the first defence witness and Chairman, Edo State Law Reform Commission, Mr. Charity Aguobawekhina, tendered the original of Obaseki’s certificates, including the disputed BA Arts Degree in Classical Studies.
The witness, who claimed to be a close associate of Obaseki, informed the court that he made the said incomplete photocopy Obaseki attached to his nomination form he submitted to INEC. Aguobawekhina added that part of the photocopy attached to form EC9 were cutoff because of the largeness of the original certificate.
He also tendered the Primary School Leaving Certificate obtained by Obaseki in 1971, School Certificate obtained in 1973 and Higher School Certificate. Others are University of Ibadan degree certificate obtained in 1979 and a Master’s Degree certificate from Pace University as the governor’s educational qualification.
All the certificates, which are original copies, were admitted as exhibits by the trial judge. Under cross-examination, the witness insisted that the photocopy of the degree certificate, which has the signature of the university’s chief registrar, date of issuance of the certificate and the name of the vice chancellor, was not forged.