The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it does not have the power to investigate or disqualify candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo during the September 19 election of Governor Godwin Obaseki, over alleged forgery of the University of Ibadan’s (UI) certificate.
It noted only a court order could disqualify a governorship candidate from participating in an election.
INEC stated that it could not investigate the originality, authenticity, or otherwise of the disputed UI’s first-degree certificate presented to the commission by Edo Governor because it was beyond its responsibility.
The electoral commission, as the first respondent in the petition filed by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel, at the Edo governorship election petitions tribunal in Benin, made the submissions in its reply, with a copy obtained on Sunday.
The reply was signed by INEC’s lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The electoral commission said: “The information given by the third respondent (Obaseki) in the affidavit and documents submitted by him as a candidate at the election in INEC’s nomination form (Form C.F. 001) are presumed manifestly true or prima facie correct until and only if the contrary is proved and/or pronounced false by an order of the court.”
PDP, last week, admitted there were noticeable errors in Obaseki’s UI’s certificate, which it claimed occurred while filling the forms for the election in 2016.
It claimed the governorship candidate “mistakenly” wrote 1976 as his year of graduation, which ought to be his year of admission.
The PDP said: “At the time Obaseki was completing his Form CF001 in 2016, he deposed to an affidavit, stating that he had misplaced the originals of all of his certificates, while changing offices, with the intention to apply for a re-issuance if his certificates.
“The original certificate was issued in A5 size. In order for the photocopy of the certificate to be attached to Form CF001, the size was reduced to A4 and in the process, leaving out some information on the certificate.”
Five petitions were filed at the tribunal chaired by Justice Abdulrazak Abdulkareem against INEC; PDP; Obaseki and his deputy/running mate, Philip Shaibu; the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its standard-bearer, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Besides ADP and its governorship candidate, there were four other petitions from Action Peoples Party (APP) without joining its governorship candidate, Amos Areloegbe; Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Ukonga Onaivi; Allied Peoples Movement (APM), excluding its governorship candidate, Igbineweka Osamuede, and Tracy Agol, without joining her political party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The petitioners prayed the tribunal to nullify the September 19 election over forgery, perjury, and massive rigging as well as ordering a fresh election with the exclusion of PDP and Obaseki.