TINUBU: Supreme Court raises issues with private chambers deposition of Chicago Varsity documents
Documents about President Tinubu’s academic records released by Chicago State University (CSU) came under scrutiny by the Nigerian Supreme Court on Monday.
The said documents were presented by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25, 2023 poll, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who wants the apex court to void the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for alleged forgery.
Before reserving judgement in the appeals filed by Atiku and the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against Tinubu, the Supreme Court raised curious questions and discrepancies in the CSU documents.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, one of the seven-member panel of justices headed by Justice Inyang Okoro, told Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) that the deposition which he sought to tender as evidence was done in the chamber of the lawyer to Atiku and not in the court as required by law.
Justice Agim said, “I expected the college (CSU) to write disclaiming the documents in dispute. Does a stenographer have the legal authority to administer an oath? We are dealing with a matter that touches on the national interest of this country.”
In his response, Uche explained that the legal system in the United States is different from that of the English legal system which is practiced in Nigeria and confirmed that the depositions were made in the law chambers of Atiku’s American lawyer, with representation by Tinubu’s American lawyers.
He insisted that there was no conflict or dispute over the legality of the depositions.
Tinubu, through his team of lawyers, raised an objection to the admissibility of the depositions, saying such depositions have to be adopted by the individual that deposed to them before they can be admitted as evidence before a court.
In response, Uche argued that such is not the practice in foreign proceedings and clarified that the depositions were not based on a court order to clarify the discrepancies observed in the communication by the Chicago State University.
The presiding justice, Justice Okoro observed that the issue of conflicting documents from the same institution is a serious criminal act which ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
After hearing the appellants’ motion to admit fresh evidence and the objections by the respondents, the court directed parties to adopt their briefs of arguments on the substantive appeal and thereafter reserved judgement till a date that would be communicated to the parties.
In the same vein, the apex court also reserved judgement in the joint appeal filed by Obi and the Labour Party challenging the victory of Tinubu at the February 25 presidential election after the parties adopted their written addresses in the appeal.
During the hearing of the petition, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) who led the legal team of Atiku and PDP informed the court of an interlocutory application seeking the leave of the court to present fresh evidence in the appeal.
The fresh evidence Atiku sought to tender are the academic records of Tinubu, which were handed over to him by the Chicago State University (CSU) on October 2, 2023.
The 32-page document was released to Atiku on the orders of Judge Nancy Maldonado of the District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division, Illinois, United States of America despite Tinubu’s objection because the court was convinced that it would help Atiku establish his allegation of forgery and lying on oath against Tinubu.
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