The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it could not investigate the certificates presented to it by Godwin Obaseki, winner of the Edo State governorship election held on September 19, because the information the governor gave was presumed to be true since it was backed up with affidavits.
The position of the commission was contained in its response, as 1st Respondent, to the petition filed by the Action Democratic Party (ADP) to the Edo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal holding in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The ADP and its governorship candidate, Emmanuel Iboi, in petition number EPT/ED/GOV/01/2020, joined INEC, the PDP, Mr Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as 1st to 5th respondents in that order. It averred that the university degree certificate submitted by the 3rd respondent, Mr Obaseki, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was defective.
The certificate was issued by the University of Ibadan, UI.
However, in a certified true copy of INEC’s response to the claims, which was obtained, the commission said it could not investigate the originality and authenticity or otherwise of the disputed certificate/document which Mr Obaseki presented to it for the governorship election because it was beyond its responsibility.
INEC said it was not in the position to disqualify the governor for alleged certificate forgery because only a competent court of jurisdiction could disqualify the governor.
In its response signed by its lead counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), INEC said, “It is also not the duty of the first respondent (INEC) to investigate the origin of the said documents duly submitted to it.
“The information given by the 3rd respondent (Mr. Godwin Obaseki) in the affidavit and documents submitted by him as a candidate at the election in INEC’s nomination form (Form C.F 001) are presumed manifestly true or prima facie correct until and only if the contrary is proved and/or pronounced false by an order of the court.”
Meanwhile, the 2nd Respondent, PDP, in its response to the ADP petition, explained that Mr Obaseki misplaced his certificate before filling the forms for the election in 2016, but had before the 2020 election found the certificate.
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.
“Subsequently, before Obaseki submitted his Form EC9 in 2020, the original certificate issued by the University of Ibadan was eventually found which has the signatures of the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of the University.”