➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
APC v. Obaseki (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.CV/376/2021
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, May 28, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Beyond reasonable doubt.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ PLAINTIFF SUCCEEDS ON THE STRENGTH OF HIS CASE
It was the appellants herein as plaintiffs that desired that the trial Court grant the reliefs they claimed for on the basis that the facts they assert in their pleadings exist and it is their case that will fail if they fail to adduce evidence to prove the existence of those facts. They can only secure the favourable Judgment they desire on the strength of their case as established by legal evidence and not on the weakness or absence of a defence. Therefore, the legal burden to prove the said facts upon which the success of their case depends rests squarely on them by virtue of S.s 131, 132 and 133 (1) and (2) of the Evidence Act 2011. – Agim JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)
⦿ SENIOR ADVOCATES SHOULD BE PROFESSIONAL IN ACTS
Learned Senior Advocates, being not only officers of the Court but supposedly noble and worthy knights in the temple of justice should be more silky in the administration of justice, particularly in election or pre-election disputes. I will, at any time, hate to recall the antonyms of the word “silky” in relation to the manner they conduct themselves in the Court. A baseless and frivolous categorization of the political leaders as criminals has its negative reciprocal bearing on the total image of the Nation. – Ejembi Eko JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)
⦿ MAIN APPEAL MAY RENDER USELESS A CROSS-APPEAL
I also agree that the decision in the main appeal, has, effectively and for all practical purposes, overtaken and rendered the cross appeal of no useful utilitarian value or worth to the cross Appellants to warrant a consideration on the merit by the Court. – Garba JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)
⦿ FORGERY IN INEC FORM MUST BE PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBTS
False information in INEC Form EC9 which is an affidavit, amounts to lying on oath and is invariably, a crime. Being a crime, its commission must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. – Aboki JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)
⦿ HE WHO ASSERTS FORGERY MUST PROVE IT
The burden of proving the allegation of falsification and forgery is on the person asserting it, and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. – Tijjani Abubakar JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)
1. All Progressive Congress (APC);
2. Edobor Williams.
1. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki;
2. Peoples Democatic Party (PDP);
3. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, with him: ROLAND OTARU, SAN, A. T. KEHINDE OGUNWUMIJU SAN, and OLUMIDE OLUJIMI.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
KEN E, MOZIA SAN – 1st respondent;
R. O. Isenalumhe – 2nd respondent;
Idahosa M. A. Bawa – 3rd respondent.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The fulcrum of the Appellants’ case, as pleaded in their Statement of Claim and the reliefs sought, was about the 1st Respondent’s i. presentation of false educational documents; and ii. presentation of forged University of Ibadan graduation certificate.
This appeal No. SC/CV/376/2021 was commenced on 30-3-2021 when the appellant herein filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/A/71/2021 delivered on 18-3-2021 dismissing the applicant’s appeal to it against the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on 9-1-2021 in suit No. FHC/B/CS/74/2020 and affirming the said judgment.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
[APPEAL: DISMISSED WITH COST N1,000,000 AGAINST THE APPELLANT]
I. Whether the Appellants proved their case?
RULING: IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
I.A. The case presented by the appellants in their pleadings is that the information the 1st respondent gave in his INEC Form EC9 of 29-6-2020 that he obtained a degree certificate from the University of Ibadan is false as he did not obtain the said degree from the University of Ibadan in 1979, that the photocopy of the undated degree certificate signed by only the Vice Chancellor is forged, that the 1st respondent gave false information in INEC Form EC9 that he worked in Afrinvest Ltd from 1994 to 2014 and retired, that the A/Level WAEC Certificate dated June, 1976 and Testimonial from Institute of Continuing Education in Benin City stating that 1st respondent sat for Advance Level examination in May/June 1975 submitted with 1st respondent’s INEC Form EC9 are forged. The main evidence relied on by the appellants to prove these assertions is the 1st respondent’s INEC Form CFOOI filled on 11-7-2016 (exhibit PL 11) and the educational credentials attached to it. 1st respondent had stated in the said Form CFOOI that he obtained his degree from University of Ibadan in 1976, that he worked with Afrinvest between 1994 and 2014. In Form EC9 he stated that he obtained his degree from University of Ibadan in 1976, that he worked with Afrinvest between 1994 and 2016. The Form CFOO1 of 2016 was accompanied by an undated degree certificate from University of Ibadan signed by only the Vice Chancellor. Form EC9 was accompanied by the dated degree certificate signed by the Vice Chancellor and Registrar. The appellants relied on the difference between the 1st respondent’s information in CFOO1 and his information in Form EC9 to assert that the information in Form EC9 is false. They also relied on the the photocopy of the University of Ibadan Degree Certificate that accompanied the 11-7-2016 Form CFOO1 to assert that the photocopy of the same degree certificate attached to the Form EC9 of 29-6-2020 is forged. The testimonies of PW1 to PW6 consist of opinions and observations on the content of copies of 1st respondent’s educational certificates that were submitted with his form EC9 to the 3rd respondent in 2020. What is clear from the evidence elicited by the appellants is that they relied on the information in 1st respondent’s INEC FORM CF001 of 2016 (exhibit PL 11) to prove the falsity of the information in his INEC Form EC9 (exhibit PL. 10) that he obtained a degree from University of Ibadan in 1979 and that he worked with Afrinvest between 1994 to 2016. The information in exhibits PL. 11 and PL. 10 differ only on the year of graduation from University of Ibadan and the period 1st respondent worked at Afrinvest. Such differences may create doubt about the truth of the information in either exhibit PL. 10 or PL. 11. But they cannot be proof that the said information in the affidavit in exhibit P10 is false. Such proof would require evidence beyond a different information in a previous affidavit of the informant.
I.B. The kind of evidence required would depend on the information. To prove that the information in exhibit PL. 10 that 1st respondent obtained a degree certificate from University of Ibadan in 1979 is false would require evidence from the said University showing that he did not attend the said University or did not obtain the said degree from the University in 1979 or at all. To prove that the information in exhibit P10 that 1st respondent worked with Afrinvest between 1994 and 2016 is false, would require evidence from Afrinvest showing that he worked there at a different period or did not work there at all. False information in INEC Form EC9, an affidavit, amounts to lying on oath or false oath. By virtue of S.31(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the 3rd respondent was bound to receive the affidavit and the documents submitted by the 1st respondent as indicating that he has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into the office of Governor of Edo State. Such a false declaration on oath to a public officer bound by law to receive it as evidence of the facts declared therein is no doubt a crime. Being a crime, the allegation of its commission must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This Court had in Abubakar & Anor V INEC & Ors (2020) 12 NWLR (1737) 37 at 110 made this restatement. The crime is established once it is shown that the information is false. The nature of the information in issue in this case requires evidence of more than a previous inconsistent statement of the declarant to prove that the current information is false. Since the information on the year the 1st respondent obtained a bachelor degree from University of Ibadan is in the records of that University or in an original or primary copy of the said degree or school leaving testimonial issued by them to the graduate, only such original copy of the certificate or testimonial or a certified true copy of same or other documents issued by the University can be proof that the information is false. Equally, since the information concerning 1st respondent working at Afrinvest between 1994 and 2016 is in the record of the company, it is evidence of such records that can prove that the information that he worked there up to 2016 is false.
I.C. It is curious that the appellants did not produce evidence of any official disclaimer from the University of Ibadan of the degree certificate attached to the Form EC9 or any official disclaimer of the A Level WAEC Certificate by WAEC. Without evidence from the institution or body that is purported to have issued any certificate or other document stating that it did not issue the certificate or document or that any part of the certificate or document is not made by it, it would be idle and useless to contend that it is forged.
I.D. In the light of the foregoing, I hold that the Court of Appeal correctly affirmed the decision of the trial Court that the appellants did not prove their case by any standard of proof. The case of the appellants collapsed at the close of their evidence and there was no case for the defendants to rebut or defend.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 182(1)(j) Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended);
Section 177(c) of the Constitution.
Section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended provides as follows: (5) Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State or FCT against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false. (6) If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)