The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division has said it has the power to sit over the case instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku is asking the court to compel Chicago State University (CSU) to produce the academic records of President Bola Tinubu, Political Economist reports.
According to court documents, the court established that it has jurisdiction over the matter under US law, which authorises any “interested person” to request that a US District Court order the discovery of documents and testimony for use in a foreign proceeding from persons who “reside or are found” within its District.”
The court, therefore, held that Atiku satisfied all statutory requirements as he is an “interested person”; and the respondent, CSU, is a public university established and existing under the laws of Illinois, with its principal campus and offices in Chicago.
It said it would not hesitate to grant the prayers of Atiku.
Nigeria’s President, Tinubu, ran for President on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on February 25.
In November 2022, several months before the Presidential elections, an Abuja-based lawyer Mr. Mike Enahoro-Ebah sued Tinubu over alleged certificate forgery, age falsification and lying on oath.
Enahoro-Ebah, in three separate direct criminal complaints filed at the Chief Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, alleged that Tinubu supplied false information as well as attached forged documents to his form EC-9 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 17, 2022, to aid his qualification for the 2023 presidential election.
He initiated proceedings against Mr. Tinubu by filing a “Direct Criminal Complaint” in the Chief Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Mr. Enahoro-Ebah alleged in his complaint that Mr. Tinubu submitted an “Affidavit of Personal Particulars” to INEC in June 2022 as part of a required filing to run for President, which included an alleged forged CSU diploma dated June 22, 1979, and other information inconsistent with the CSU documents.
“Mr. Enahoro-Ebah stated that after Mr. Tinubu made his INEC filing, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah obtained a subpoena from the Circuit Court of Cook County, dated August 11, 2022, and served it on CSU,” according to papers filed by Atiku in the US court on August 2, 2023, to substantiate the accusations.
In response to the subpoena, CSU’s Registrar, Mr. Caleb Westberg, wrote to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah’s Chicago lawyer, Mr. Matthew J. Kowals, on September 22, 2022, informing Mr. Kowals that “[t]he enclosed documentation is all the records we have for Bola E. Tinubu.”
“According to the complaint, the documents that accompanied Mr. Westberg’s letter included a CSU diploma issued to Mr. Tinubu on June 27, 1979. The June 27 diploma allegedly produced by CSU to Mr. Kowals, and the June 22 diploma allegedly submitted by Mr. Tinubu to INEC, are very different documents.
“In addition to the different dates, the documents have different seals, fonts, and language. The June 22 diploma has grammatical errors that the June 27 diploma does not have. They are also signed by different persons who are ostensibly officials of CSU. The June 22 diploma has three signatures, one of which purports to be the signature of Dr. Elnora Daniel as President of CSU. The other two signatures on the June 22 diploma are illegible.
“By contrast, the June 27 diploma only has two signatures. They purport to be the signatures of Dr. Daniel, again as the President of CSU, and Dr. Niva Lubin as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. Compare
“In his complaint, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah asserts that the June 27 diploma produced by CSU to Mr. Kowals is authentic and that the June 22 diploma submitted by Mr. Tinubu to INEC is a forgery. However, Applicant’s staff have recently conducted further research into the names of CSU officials with legible signatures on the two diplomas: Dr. Daniel (whose signature appears on both the June 22 and June 27 diplomas) and Dr. Lubin (whose signature appears only on the June 27 diploma).”
The report noted that according to public records, Dr. Daniel and Dr. Lubin did not join CSU until the late 1990s—around two decades after CSU supposedly awarded the June 22 diploma and/or the June 27 diploma to Mr. Tinubu.
As a result, the applicant questioned the legitimacy of both the June 22 and June 27 diplomas.
Mr. Enahoro-Ebah said in his lawsuit that there were more disparities between the information provided by Mr. Tinubu to INEC and the records produced by CSU to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah: “According to documents produced by CSU, the ‘Bola Tinubu’ who attended CSU was a U.S. citizen, while in the information provided to INEC, Mr. Tinubu states that he has always been solely a Nigerian citizen and has never acquired the citizenship of any other country.
“According to the documents produced by CSU, the ‘Bola Tinubu’ who attended CSU was born in 1954, while according to the information provided to the INEC, Mr. Tinubu was born in 1952.
“According to the documents produced by CSU, the ‘Bola Tinubu’ who applied to CSU submitted a prior transcript from Southwest College that identified ‘Bola Tinubu’ as ‘female.’ According to the documents produced by CSU, the ‘Bola Tinubu’ who attended CSU claimed that s/he had graduated from Government College, Lagos, in 1970, while in the information provided to INEC, Mr. Tinubu makes no mention of having attended Government College.”
In light of the foregoing, Atiku petitioned the Court for an order granting him leave to compel CSU to reveal and verify the authenticity of documents reportedly granted to Tinubu by the university.
On August 16, Peoples Gazette reported that a US court had set August 23 as the deadline for Tinubu to present persuasive arguments as to why Chicago State University should not be ordered to release his academic records to Atiku Abubakar, his rival in the February 25 presidential election in Nigeria.
The deadline, which is contained in court filings seen by Peoples Gazette, was imposed on August 9 by Jeffrey Gilbert, the new magistrate judge assigned to the case at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
The Court also ordered Atiku to respond to Tinubu’s argument by September 9, two weeks after Mr Tinubu’s response was anticipated.
According to the report, the timeline shows the court is racing to rule on the matter before September 21, when Nigeria’s election petitions tribunal will likely deliver its judgement in the suit challenging Tinubu’s election victory.
Atiku and Peter Obi of the Labour Party and their parties had filed petitions to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
On July 11, Atiku also filed the petition seeking to obtain further details of Tinubu’s academic records at the Chicago State University.
Documents sought by Atiku, through his counsel, Angela M. Liu, include a record of his admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards and honours attained by Tinubu at the university.
Atiku informed the court that Tinubu subpoena was to test the truth and veracity of Mr. Tinubu’s assertions, adding that he is currently Nigeria’s President and facing various court proceedings concerning his election and the authenticity of documents relating to his attendance at Chicago State University.
But Tinubu has filed a motion to prevent the school from disclosing his educational records.
Tinubu’s counsel, Victor P. Henderson, asked the court to strike it out as no judge of the court heard and granted Atiku the subpoena.