The Edo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal resumed hearing on Tuesday of the five petitions filed against the return of incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki for a second term in office following his victory in the September 19, 2020 election with the state Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) attributing the error on the governor’s disputed University of Ibadan degree certificate to the type of photocopier used to photo-copy the document before submission to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The PDP however challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the case on the grounds that it was a pre-election matter, and secondly, that it was statute-barred.
The five petitions were filed by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel; Action Peoples Party (APP), which did not join its governorship candidate, Amos Areloegbe; Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Ukonga Onaivi; Allied Peoples Movement (APM), excluding its governorship candidate, Igbineweka Osamuede, and Tracy Agol, who did not join her political party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The petitioners are seeking the nullification of the September 19 victory of Obaseki and his deputy/running mate, Philip Shaibu for a second term in office, over alleged certificate forgery by the governor on the ground of which he was disqualified from contesting the September 19 poll on the platform of his former party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. They called for a fresh election by INEC but excluding the PDP, Obaseki and his running mate.
The PDP’s admittance of the error was in a reply to the petition by Action Democratic Party (ADP) against Godwin Obaseki in which it challenged the jurisdiction of the three-man tribunal to hear the petition, stating that “there was misstatement in mixing up the year of graduation with the year of admission”. The PDP further admitted that in spite of the noticeable error, Obaseki proceeded to take part in the National Youth Service Corps scheme.
The PDP, which had in 2016 approached the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja raising issues about Obaseki’s certificates as the candidate of the opposition party then, told the tribunal on Tuesday that “While filling the forms for the election in 2016, Obaseki inadvertently and mistakenly wrote 1976 in a portion of the form for the year of the graduation which year was the year of his admission into the University of Ibadan”.
According to the PDP, “At the time Obaseki was completing his Form CF001 in 2016, he deposed to an affidavit stating that he had misplaced the originals of all of his certificates while changing offices with the intention to apply for a re-issuance of his certificates.
“Subsequently, before Obaseki submitted his Form EC9 in 2020, the original certificate issued by University of Ibadan was eventually found which has the signatures of the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of the University”.
Blaming the error on the type of photocopier used, the PDP explained that “the original certificate was issued in A5 size; however, in order for the photocopy of the certificate to be attached to the Form CF001, the size was reduced to A4 and in the process, leaving out some information on the certificate”.
At the time Obaseki was completing his form CF001 in 2016 as APC candidate, he claimed to have deposed to an affidavit at the Federal Capital Territory High Court registry stating that he had misplaced all his original certificates and that he had written to all the schools to reissue him the certificates or give him certified true copies. The PDP had however alleged during the governorship campaigns that the affidavit was forged because on inquiry, the court said it had no record of it.
But insisting that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition for reason that same is statute barred because the issues raised by the petitioner, “were averments which are not relevant for the purpose of determining the petition at the Election Petition Tribunal, as the said averments relate to facts concerning the previous election conducted in 2016”. The PDP further argued that since the election under dispute is that of September 2020, the petition should be dismissed.