The legal teams of President Bola Tinubu and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, will resume a legal battle over the President’s Chicago academic records in a United States court on Monday.
A US District Judge, Nancy Maldonado, had on Thursday agreed to stay an order directing Chicago State University to make Tinubu’s academic document available to Atiku’s legal team.
The hearing came up late Thursday night after the President’s lawyers filed an emergency motion seeking a delay in the implementation of the self-effectuating order directing the CSU to comply with Atiku’s subpoenas till Monday.
Atiku is currently challenging the victory of the former Lagos State governor at the 2023 presidential poll and his recent affirmation by an election petition court in Nigeria.
Earlier, a magistrate, Jeffrey Gilbert, had on Tuesday ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to the applicant, Atiku, within two days.
Documents sought by the PDP candidate, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the record of admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards, and honours attained by the former governor of Lagos State at the university, among others.
But as the deadline given by Gilbert drew nearer on Thursday, Tinubu’s lawyers approached Maldonado, arguing that the earlier decision by Gilbert needed to be reviewed by a district judge.
The request for a review and delay of the order till Monday was granted by the US district judge.
In the emergency hearing, Maldonado disclosed that mindful of legal deadlines in Nigeria, she would rule on the matter as quickly as possible.
“I will have a busy weekend. The issue is of process and rules. I’m a rule person. That’s why I’m a judge. This case is quite involved. I am aware of the stakes. It’s more important to me to get this right,” she said.
No hiding place
Ahead of the resumption of the case on Monday, however, Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the President should not be hiding anything and that the camp would wait for the court process while whatever is being hidden will be unfolded.
Ibe said “What is in that file if it is released that would bring harm that is irreparable to him (Tinubu)? It has become important for Bola Tinubu to let Nigerians know what he is hiding in his academic record at Chicago University.
“We cannot mortgage the destiny of over 200 million people for the interest of one individual. He is bringing embarrassment to Nigeria, it is shameful and it is a tragedy to have something as simple as releasing your records to be subject to public scrutiny.
“Nigerians should begin to take an interest in this matter. Nigerians should be asking questions about what is going on. Why should the President of Nigeria not be a product of due process, transparency and accountability? It has never reached this low and it is unfortunate. We will get him.
“We will await the court process, they can only stall but finally whatever it is that is being hidden will be released.”
Tinubu’s camp ready
When Saturday PUNCH contacted the Coordinator of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, on the team’s preparation ahead of Monday, he said the team members were ready for Atiku’s next move.
He said whatever may be the former vice president’s next plan, members of the President’s team were also not sleeping.
Ogala, who is currently in the US as part of the legal team said, “We submitted our application and the order has been suspended. We are starting all over again.
“If they like, let them do a Plan C. We are not sleeping either. We will meet them there.
“Instead of recommending to the judge, the magistrate was ruling which he has no power to do. We told the judge and he agreed. So the whole process of what he has done was set aside.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, however, did not speak on whether the President is hiding something from Nigerians and the nature of the “non-privileged” details contained in the academic record in the custody of his alma mater when he was asked.
“There is nothing new to say beyond what you have. We will wait till next week,” he said.
Efforts made to reach the PDP legal team and spokesman for the opposition party, Debo Ologunagba, were unsuccessful as of press time.
Meanwhile, the New Nigeria Peoples Party has called on the President to assent to the release of his academic credentials to douse the growing tension and suspicion of his critics.
The party’s new National Publicity Secretary, Yakubu Shemdam, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, said if the situation was allowed to get out of hand, it might distract even the President.
Shemdam said, “As a party, we have been following the drama. But, of course, we are not part of the people who filed an application to demand his records from Chicago University.
“But we think that if he has nothing to hide, definitely he should do the needful by allowing the people who requested those records to have access to them, especially now that the US judiciary is already involved in the matter.
“The earlier they do this, the better so that the President can continue to focus on the developmental plans he has for Nigerians. This is because what is happening now is causing a lot of distraction in the country. Many people are beginning to agitate and question the motion being filed to stop the release of the documents. There is a saying that a clear conscience fears no accusation.”
Obi’s team speaks
In a related development, the campaign team of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, said the President needed to present his academic records to prove his critics wrong.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, the Chief Spokesman of Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said Tinubu’s excuse for holding on to the result was unacceptable.
Tanko said “Can you imagine the President stating in the motion he filed that releasing the result could cause him irreparable harm? You begin to wonder what was that supposed to mean. It is very sad.
“If I am a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University who has my records intact and I know they are clean, why do I have to stop the university from releasing my result? It will assist me if ABU quickly issues it so that I can get out of this particular accusation. What this simply means is that the President has something to hide. The learned judge that they are attempting to blame acted according to his power.
“What the Chicago State University said was that it can only act on an order from the court to release the result. Why is the President not interested in having it published if truly he attended that particular school? This will further make the people more inquisitive to find out exactly what that result contains. If there is nothing to hide, they should publish it so that everybody can go and rest.”
Atiku and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, had challenged Tinubu’s electoral victory at the Supreme Court following the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the President’s mandate on September 6.
Atiku approached the US court for an order compelling the CSU to release Tinubu’s academic record, questioning alleged gaps in the President’s academic history.
Tinubu’s credentials indicated that he graduated from CSU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Accounting and Management, but there have been allegations of discrepancies with his academic record.
But justifying his decision to obtain the President’s record, Atiku said unless a clarification was made, it would be difficult for Nigerians to understand the academic journey of the former Lagos State governor.
In response to an order by the court that he should make a formal filing on why his records should not be released, Tinubu claimed a clerical error was responsible for the discrepancies on the certificate issued to him by the university.
According to filings by Tinubu’s lawyers, Oluwole Afolabi and Christopher Carmichael, an unidentified clerk of the university made the error about the date the school stated on his recently-issued certificate, thereby creating “the appearance of differences.”
Regardless of his opposition to Atiku’s application, Magistrate Gilbert ordered the CSU to release all relevant academic records of the President to his political opponent.
BREAKING NEWS: PDP’s Diri Wins Bayelsa Gov Election
The incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Douye Diri, has been declared the winner of the State governorship election held last Saturday.
The Returning Officer, Prof Faruq Kuta, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Of Technology, Minna, announced Diri winner of the poll at the collation centre of the election on Monday.
Diri polled 175,196 to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, who garnered 110,108 votes while the Labour Party polled 905 votes.
Plateau: Protesters Storm S’ Court Over Sack Of Four PDP Members From NASS
Over 1000 protesters, on Monday, besieged the Supreme Court to register their displeasure over the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which sacked four members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Plateau State, from the National Assembly, based on a pre-election dispute.
The placard and banner-wielding groups, under the aegis of Coalition for Justice in Africa, CJA, submitted a protest letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
According to the protesters, the appellate court, by its judgement, thwarted the wish of electorates in Plateau state, when it declared candidates that lost the National Assembly elections that held on February 25, as winners of the legislative seats.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the protest letter was submitted to the CJN, the National President of the CJA, Dr. Daniel Okwa, maintained that the judgement of the appellate court was capable of causing a breakdown of law and order in the state.
He said the group was at the apex court to seek the intervention of the CJN, alleging that the verdicts that removed all the PDP federal lawmakers were influenced by some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The protest letter, which was obtained by Vanguard, read in part: “The Coalition for Truth and Justice believes that the judgment of the Appeal Court in Abuja is a case of injustice, else, how could one explain a situation where lawmakers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) would boast and predict the outcome of the Court of Appeal judgment even before the pronouncement.
“This is unacceptable and indicates that the justice regime in Nigeria has been thrown to the dogs. What happened in Plateau State is an aberration of immeasurable proportion. There is a distinction between a pre-election matter and a post-election matter.
“The Supreme Court has established this fact on several occasions. It is now a wonder why the Appeal Court would act otherwise and in a despicable manner that tends to truncate our nascent democracy.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice entirely condemns the actions of the justices of the Appeal Court that sat in Abuja. They displayed insensitivity to the electoral choices of the people. This is a worrisome trend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must address.
“This is on the heels that the Judiciary, the world over, is regarded as the last hope of the commoner. This presupposes that it is the only place the commoner can get justice. The function of the Judiciary is not to twist the truth or fabricate facts but to interpret the law. The consequence of the interpretation of the law is justice.
“However, what played out in Plateau state negates the Judiciary’s position as the common’s last hope. The Judiciary is for sale to the highest bidder in Nigeria, if such positions could be taken without recourse to the implication of such on the psychological state of the people.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice is using this protest to drive the point that justice in Nigeria should not be reserved for a section of the country or any political party. What happened in Plateau should not be allowed to stand or repeat itself. The implication of such is that the reputation of the judicial arm of government would be eroded.”
It will be recalled that the appellate court had on November 7, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, okayed the nullification of the election of a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that emerged on the platform of the PDP.
The panel based its decision on failure of the PDP to fully comply with a court that was made in 2022, which it said directed the party to conduct congress in the 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
It, therefore, held that though the lawmakers won their respective seats during the National Assembly election that held on February 25, all the scores that were credited them, amounted to wasted votes.
It ordered that candidates that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as winners of the legislative seats.
Canada’s Abuja, Lagos Visa Centres Open – High Commission
The Canadian High Commission in Nigeria has said its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open for the processing of immigration, refugee and citizenship applications.
The Canadian High Commission had on Tuesday announced the suspension of operations in its Abuja office following a fire incident at its generator house, which claimed two lives on Monday.
Nigerians had expressed fear that the operations suspension would hamper visa application processes.
But in a statement posted on its X handle on Thursday, the Canadian High Commission clarified that its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open and operational.
In the statement by its public affairs staff, Demilade Kosemani, the commission said, “As we continue to mourn the passing of our dear colleague from the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, please note the following information below:
“Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada clients: processing of applications continues. Regardless of the suspension of operations at the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, the Visa Application Centres in Abuja and Lagos remain open.”
Meanwhile, a travel agency, , TMT Travels and Tours Limited, has sympathised with the Canadian High Commission over the Monday tragic fire incident.
In a statement on Thursday the agency’s Chief Executive Officer, Collins Onukwubiri, said, “We at TMT Travels and Tours Limited shares in the grief and sense of loss of the Canadian embassy in Abuja. The partial burning of the Canadian embassy in Abuja and the death of two workers there was most unfortunate.
“Canada, as a major player in the Nigeria’s travel and tours business, is an integral player in Nigeria’s economy. We know how devastating this unfortunate incident is to them but we want to say that we stand with them in this time and always. We specially condole with the families of the two persons who died in the process.”