Justice Obiora Egwuatu of a Federal High Court, Abuja has ordered the Action Alliance (AA) to present its witnesses in court on October 12, this year when hearing will commence in the alleged certificate forgery suit against former Lagos State Governor, and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the 2023 presidential election, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Justice Egwuatu gave the order shortly before adjourning Thursday’s proceedings to enable parties in the suit complete their exchanges of brief in the suit.
AA had on June 21, approached the court for an order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from including the name of the APC in the ballot of the 2023 presidential election.
The party equally asked the court for another order restraining the electoral umpire from accepting the name of Tinubu as the candidate of the APC in the forthcoming presidential election.
The plaintiff in the Writ of Summon marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/954/2022, predicated its request on the claim that both the APC and its presidential candidate, Tinubu, are not qualified to participate in the 2023 presidential election on alleged forgery committed by Tinubu in 1999.
While the AA is the sole plaintiff, INEC, APC and Tinubu are the first, second and third defendants respectively.
When the case came up on Thursday, Mr Ukpai Ukairo, AA’s lawyer, informed the court that he just received the objection of Tinubu to the suit and would need a short time to respond to it.
Similarly, INEC represented by one Hassan Mohammed also indicated interest to respond to the case of the plaintiff and also requested a short adjournment.
While there was no representation for the APC, despite evidence of service, Tinubu’s lawyer, Mr Babatunde Ogala (SAN), told the court that the suit is an abuse of court process and a waste of the court’s precious time because the subject matter involves issues that happened over two decades ago.
According to Ogala, the foundation for the suit against his client was rooted in the 1999 electoral forms he (Tinubu) submitted to the then electoral body.
The lawyer further claimed that the case of the AA has become statute barred because it was placed on the report of the Lagos State House of Assembly which probed Tinubu a long ago over the alleged certificate forgery issue.
Responding, Ukairo urged the court to disregard the submission of Ogala that the suit has become statute barred, adding that the plaintiff would respond adequately at the appropriate time, if and when the third defendant formally file and served on him his reply to the originating summons.
Responding, Justice Egwuatu ordered the parties to put their houses in order for proper hearing of the alleged certificate forgery suit, promising to give accelerated hearing in the matter.
The judge ordered the plaintiff to come with its witnesses on the next adjourned date, which he fixed for October 12, noting that the matter can be taken within one week if all parties are well prepared.
He subsequently adjourned till October 12 for hearing.
Egwuatu in addition ordered the plaintiff to be ready to call its witnesses on the adjourned date so as to establish its case against Tinubu.
AA in the suit is claiming that Tinubu forged his University of Chicago certificate he submitted in 1999 in aid of his qualification for the 1999 governorship election in Lagos State, which he won.
In a 16-paragraph statement on oath deposed by one Kalu Agu, the plaintiff submitted that “the 3rd defendant is a person who is not qualified for election to the office of President of Nigeria on the grounds of alleged forgery”.
According to the deponent, the third defendant had provided false information and attached forged documents in the form CF 001 he submitted to INEC in 1999 in aid of his qualification for the governorship poll.
The deponent stated that the claim of Tinubu that he possesses Bsc degrees in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Chicago and Chicago State University in 1976 and 1979 respectively were false.
“The 3rd defendant knew he did not possess all the educational qualifications he listed in the said INEC form,” he added.
The deponent further claimed that the matter of false information by Tinubu was once reported to the Inspector General of Police and the Lagos State House of Assembly, wherein the latter set up a committee which in its report at page 2 said: “The Governor of Lagos State stated his evidence by admitting full responsibility for some of the needless errors being pinpointed in recent publications and which formed the basis of the allegations against him.”
The plaintiff contends that arising from the above; the third defendant is not qualified for election into the office of president of Nigeria.
The party therefore prayed the court to declare that the third defendant’s claim that he attended Government College, Ibadan, and University of Chicago on his INEC Form CF 001 in 1999 which he presented to INEC is false.
He also urged the court to further declare that the alleged false information on Tinubu’s INEC Form CF 001 about his BSc degree in Economics from the University of Chicago “is a forged certificate”.
The plaintiff said in view of Section 137(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution, the court should declare that the third defendant, “having in 1999 presented a forged certificate to INEC… is not qualified to contest for the office of president.”
“A declaration that by virtue of Sections 224, 23 and 24 of the 1999 Constitution and the Constitution of the APC, the office of the President of Nigeria is to be occupied by a man of integrity and impeccable character,” the party said.
While the plaintiff prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from publishing the name of Tinubu as the candidate of the APC in the 2023 presidential election, the AA prayed for another order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from listing the APC as a political party in the ballot for the 2023 presidential poll. (Courtesy: THISDAY)