Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate for president in the most recent presidential election, has once more pleaded with the Supreme Court to overlook a procedural matter and grant his request for permission to present new and additional evidence in support of his claim that President Bola Tinubu submitted a forged document to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to run in the presidential election on February 25.
Atiku based his argument on the fact that providing fake documents by any candidate is a very serious constitutional violation that should not be condoned, especially by a contender for the highest position in the nation.
This was said by the former vice president in response to Tinubu’s legal argument against Atiku being given permission to present new evidence to the Supreme Court.
When Tinubu objected, he did so on the basis of jurisdiction and the fact that the question of qualification was an election-related matter, among others. He then asked the court to reject the application’s approval.
However, Atiku argued in his response on a legal basis that matters of merit should not be decided or ruled on at the interlocutory stage while criticizing Tinubu.
The appellants/applicants contended that “to refuse the leave, as the respondents have argued, will amount to undue technicality,” despite the fact that they are now just asking the Supreme Court for permission to receive the new evidence.
The Supreme Court has frequently intervened to provide substantial justice in cases involving important constitutional issues, such as AMAECHI v. INEC (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227 and OBI v. INEC (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 565. The Supreme Court has served as both the Apex Court and the Policy Court. For such unusual situations, the Supreme Court used the ubi jus ibi remedium concept to make sure that substantial justice is done.
Given the seriousness of the constitutional issue involved in determining whether a candidate for the highest office in the land, the office of President of the Country, presented a forged certificate or not, “the need to rebuff, eschew, and reject technicality and the duty of Court to ensure substantial justice is very germane in this matter.
We can do no better than to recommend to your noble Lordships the wise words of the Supreme Court in ASSAH & ORS V. KARA & ORS (2014) LPELR-24212(SC), per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC, in encouraging the Honourable Court to override the objections of the Respondents:
Law is deaf. It is eyeless. It is blind. That clarifies why there is a statue of a woman with her eyes concealed outside some High Courts. Justice is not blind, on the other hand. It sees, and it sees very well, with many eyes.
The goal of courts is to uphold substantive justice between the parties, and the court will reject any technicality that attempts to thwart this goal. (We underlined “ours”).
In contrast, Atiku argued in a 20-paragraph affidavit submitted in support of the application that, if the Apex Court granted the application, “any further argument other than the written address in support of same showing that the 2nd Respondent is in violation of the provisions of Section 137 (1) (j) of the Constitution by presenting a certificate disclaimed by the institution from which he purportedly procured same” would be unnecessary.
Contrary to paragraph 16(xi) of the second respondent’s counter-affidavit, the letter was forwarded to the court’s registrar instead, as was done in the case of Uzodinma v. Izunaso (2011) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1275) 30, at 56 (paragraph h of the affidavit on page 56), in which both the second respondent’s attorney and the appellants’ attorney were involved.
Mr. Uyi Giwa-Osagie, the deponent, further argued that Tinubu’s objection was unfounded because the second respondent never contested the issue of the discovery and deposition’s venue and that Tinubu was represented at both the discovery and the depositions as well as at the court hearing by his Chicago attorneys.
“That the 1st and 3rd Respondents’ attendance at the discovery and deposition was not required.
“That I am aware that the appeal filed by the second respondent was unsuccessful in its attempt to stop the discovery and deposition.
“That I can vouch for the fact that the District Judge ordered the discovery and deposition, and they were not conducted outside of court.
“That the Appellants were not lax in their pursuit of the discoveries and deposition, as it was also the letter tendered as EXHIBIT XX2 by the second Respondent in the course of his defense purportedly issued by Caleb Westerberg that clearly gave the applicants/appellants additional reasons to build on the evidence of PW27 by the discovery proceedings for the documents and deposition on oath of the same Caleb Westerberg.
The Appellants/Applicants started the procedure for the discovery and deposition, starting with many preparatory steps taken by their U.S. Attorneys and ending with the submission of a Petition for the Issuance of Subpoena, a copy of which is included herewith as EXHIBIT “K.”
“That the process was significantly slowed down by the 2nd Respondent’s vigorous objection, which I append here as EXHIBIT “L” together with the 2nd Respondent’s unsuccessful attempt to have the subpoena quashed.
The move to join or intervene filed by the second respondent, which was granted, and a copy of which application is included herewith as EXHIBIT “M,” further slowed down the proceedings.
“That the subpoena was ultimately issued, and please find attached a copy of the subpoena and the supporting documents as EXHIBIT “N.”
Despite the fact that the second respondent had also applied through his attorney in the United States, Mr. Wole Afolabi, for the release of the said documents, which were released to him as shown in EXHIBIT “P,” which was presented during the discovery and deposition process, the second respondent has been in primary possession of all the facts sought in the discovery but has taken every action to prevent their release.
“I know for a fact that the appellants are challenging in this appeal the orders of the lower court striking out certain paragraphs of their petition as well as their replies dealing with aspects of the qualifications of the second respondent,” the statement reads.
As there is no petition contesting Tinubu’s eligibility, Atiku criticized Tinubu’s argument that he had conflicting spellings of his names as being irrelevant and banal.
“That it is immaterial that 1st Respondent had since June 24th 2022 published the factitious credentials of the 2nd Respondent as presentation of a forged certificate by a candidate for election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a post-election matter under Section 137 (1) (j) of the Constitution”
In addition, Atiku emphasized that presenting a fake document disqualifies a candidate indefinitely, regardless of when it is provided.
The issue at hand is whether the second respondent submitted a fraudulent document to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), not whether he attended Chicago State University.
“That at the trial, a National Youth Service Corps certificate bearing the name Tinubu Bola Adekunle and bearing serial number 173807, presented by the second respondent to the first respondent, was also tendered by the appellants/applicants as “EXHIBIT PBD 1A,” which is annexed herewith as EXHIBIT “J.”