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Buhari’s certificate gains currency as President opens defence at tribunal

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President Muhammadu Buhari

At last, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday opened defence at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, as his certificate saga took centre stage.

While President Buhari had claimed in 2015 that his certificates were with the military board and could be obtained on request, one of his witnesses, Major General Paul Tafa (rtd.), who claimed he was enlisted in the Nigerian Army with the President on April 16, 1962, however, denied that they were ordered to submit their certificates to the military board.

Answering questions from lead counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tafa insisted that the Nigerian Army never asked them to surrender their certificate in 1962 for whatever reasons.

And when asked to confirm that the army had asked them to submit their certificates in 1962, Tafa emphatically stated: “There was nothing like that during our time,” but confirmed that English was the official language of communication in the army.

Under cross-examination by Atiku Abubakar and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) lead counsel, Dr. Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), the first defence witness noted that President Buhari, being the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Nigeria, has all military formations under him.

Buhari’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) said the documents were certified true copies of certificates obtained in the past, including Cambridge examinations results he took in 1961.

The PDP and Atiku had taken the President, All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, challenging Buhari’s victory in the February 23, 2019 election.

When the case was closed after calling 62 witnesses, the tribunal adjourned briefly to enable Buhari, INEC and APC time to open their defence.

But when the tribunal reconvened on Monday, INEC said it was unnecessary for it to open its defence since the petitioners’ witnesses have provided the required information.

Consequently, the tribunal adjourned till 2 pm yesterday to enable Buhari to open his own defence, and when the matter was called, one of the first documents tendered, as exhibit were the President’s academic results.

However, lawyers representing INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN) and APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) did not object to the admissibility of the documents.

Shortly after, witnesses were called in, Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari, admitted that no certificate was listed on Buhari’s curriculum vitae and that none was among the documents obtained from Cambridge University earlier tendered as exhibits.

Kyari also admitted that he obtained the Cambridge documents personally on July 18, 2019, adding that he was 67 years old and that he had known Buhari for almost 40 years.

He equally told the tribunal that he signed for and collected the Cambridge documents for the assessment at Cambridge.


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