The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, has told the Supreme Court that submitting a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission by a candidate is a weighty constitutional matter that the apex court must consider.
Atiku stated this in a deposition he made to the Supreme Court on Friday while presenting the academic records of President Bola Tinubu as new evidence for consideration in his appeal against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court.
The former Vice-President, through his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, reminded the apex court, “Presentation of a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission by a candidate for election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a weighty constitutional matter requiring consideration by the courts as custodians of the constitution.”
According to him, from cases already decided by the apex court, it could be seen that there is only one single requirement in this instance, which is the need to do justice fairly, equitably and justly.
In a 20-paragraph affidavit deposed to in support of the appeal number: SC/CV/935/2023 with petition number: CA/PEPC/05/2023, the deponent, one Uyi Giwa-Osagie, a legal practitioner, stated that the certificate Tinubu presented to INEC in support of his qualification to contest the presidential election had been found not to be authentic by the Chicago State University, United States of America, which purportedly issued it.
The documents Atiku sought to tender at the apex court are the academic records of Tinubu, which were handed over to him by the CSU on Monday, October 2, 2023.
The 32-page documents were released to the PDP candidate on the order of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, USA.
Giwa-Osagie added in the deposition, “The deposition is a relevant piece of fresh evidence explaining the status of the certificate the 2nd respondent presented to INEC in support of his qualification to contest the election.”
Uche informed the apex court that Atiku’s legal team would be relying on the Record of Appeal already transmitted to the court, which it was entitled to look at.
“My Lords, we most humbly adopt the facts as presented in the supporting affidavit and the same will be referred to in the course of the argument,” he said.
The senior lawyer submitted that the Supreme Court had the power, the jurisdiction and the discretion to grant an application for adducing fresh or additional evidence on appeal.
Uche added, “We humbly submit that the grant of the present application will certainly be in furtherance of the course of justice in this matter. This is a case in which the 2nd respondent was returned purportedly as the winner of the said election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The appellants/applicants have, amongst other grounds, challenged the election of the 2nd respondent on the grounds of his qualification to contest the said election and more especially on the basis that the 2nd respondent presented a forged document to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The appellants/applicants have also in their appeal challenged the striking out of their pleadings raising the issue of qualification of the 2nd respondent to contest the said election.
“The evidence required to establish that the certificate presented by the 2nd respondent to the 1st respondent in support of his qualification to contest the said election is the deposition from the Chicago State University, which deposition did not become available until after the determination of the case by the lower court.
“The said evidence is now available and forwarded to this honourable court.”
He added, “We submit that the appellants/applicants have successfully explained the delay and difficulties in obtaining the said evidence earlier than now, and all the necessary steps taken to obtain the evidence and to present the same to this honourable court.
“We submit that a successful proof of the said allegation will render the 2nd respondent unqualified to have contested the said election ab initio for presentation of forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission pursuant to the provisions of Section 137(1)(j) of the Constitution, being a weighty matter of constitutional importance.”
According to him, the Supreme Court had in the case of Saleh vs Abah (2017) held,”The intention of the constitution is that anyone who had presented a forged certificate to INEC should stand automatically disqualified for all future elections if, as in this case, a court or tribunal finds the certificate to have been forged, and it matters not whether or not such fact is further fraudulently or desperately concealed in subsequent elections or declaration forms.
“No decent system or polity should condone, or through judicial policy and decisions, encourage the dangerous culture of forging certificates with impunity to seek electoral contest.”
The Supreme Court has, however, not fixed a date for the hearing of the motion.
Atiku selling misinformation – Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency on Saturday accused the presidential candidate of the Atiku of “selling misinformation” in a bid to give “false hope” to his supporters.
It also said the former Vice President is trying to intimidate the Judiciary by inciting the citizenry against judges.
“What Atiku is doing is simply misinformation out of desperation. He is selling a lie to galvanize his base. He is giving false hope to his funders and supporters.
“We know that he got support from different entities from within and outside Nigeria for his election and he gave them false hope that he was winning the election,” Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Temitope Ajayi, told our correspondent in a phone interview on Saturday.
Ajayi said by ignoring last Tuesday’s deposition by the Registrar of Chicago State University, Caleb Westberg, Abubakar is selling a false hope to his supporters who are still disappointed in him for losing the February polls.
Speaking under oath, Westberge confirmed that the same Tinubu who graduated from the school in 1979 is Nigeria’s current President.
However, Saturday PUNCH reported that Abubakar has applied to file fresh evidence against President Tinubu at the supreme court.
Reacting to the development the Presidential aide reasoned “Most of his (Abubakar) supporters are disappointed in him. That they wasted their money and efforts on him.
“So he’s trying to give those people false hope that he has a chance at the courts. If not, how can he give a different meaning to a deposition to any educated person can understand?
“We’re in the age of alternative truth where people only want to believe the lies they want to believe. And there’s nothing we can do about that. So, Atiku can psyche himself up by giving a psychic victory over nothing. He went to America on a voyage of discovery and came back with nothing.”
Ajayi noted that the Wazirin Adamawa has the right to present his case at the Supreme Court adding that “After all, he won’t be the one to decide his own case.”
“In fact, just last week, the CJN said the court will not decide tonight the basis of public opinion but based on the law.
“So, Atiku is trying to intimidate the judiciary and trying to incite Nigerians against the judiciary,” he added.