Senior U.S. judge denies Bola Tinubu’s emergency appeal, orders CSU to turn over records to Atiku, testify under oath Monday afternoon

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The ruling marks a major blow to Mr Tinubu and a progress for Mr Abubakar, who has been seeking the records to establish that the Nigerian president tendered forged certificate.

President Bola Tinubu has lost his emergency application to block Chicago State University from releasing his academic records to Atiku Abubakar.

Judge Nancy Maldonado of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago said the decision of a lower federal magistrate judge on September 19 was appropriate and adopted it in full.

“The Court overrules President Tinubu’s objections to Magistrate Judge Gilbert’s recommended ruling, and therefore adopts the ruling in full. Mr Abubakar’s application is therefore granted,” the judge ruled. ‘In light of the pending Supreme Court of Nigeria deadline, represented to the court as October 5, 2023, and based on CSU’s representations that it is ready to comply with the discovery requests and produce a witness, the court sets an expedited schedule for completion of discovery.”

Ms Maldonado, a district judge, also said the CSU should turn over the records to Mr Abubakar by 12:00 p.m. Monday and also make its officials available for deposition to authenticate the documents by 5:00 p.m. on the same day.

The judge said any attempt by Mr Tinubu to appeal the judgement in the district would no longer be tolerated as Mr Abubakar must transfer the collected evidence to the Nigerian Supreme Court for use in an ongoing election petition case by October 5.

“CSU is directed to produce all relevant and non-privileged documents in response to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4 (as narrowed by Judge Gilbert and adopted here) in Mr. Abubakar’s subpoena, by 12:00 p.m. (noon) CDT, on Monday, October 2, 2023,” she added. “The Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of CSU’s corporate designee must be completed by 5:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. Given the October 5, 2023, filing deadline before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court will not extend or modify these deadlines.”

The judge, however, said Mr Tinubu is free to file his appeal directly before the Seventh Circuit, which is the main appellate court overseeing Illinois and nearby states, an attempt that would likely prove daunting given the tight window for compliance by CSU.

The ruling marks a major blow to Mr Tinubu and a huge victory for Mr Abubakar, who has been seeking the records to establish that Mr Tinubu presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission when he submitted his application to run for president in June 2022.

Section 137 (1)(j) of the Nigerian Constitution (amended in 2010) specifically stated that no one would be legitimately elected president of Nigeria if the person “has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

Prior to the ruling late Saturday night, Judge Maldonado had acknowledged the significant public interest dimension of the case, saying it would cause her to expedite justice for all parties.

The president did not deny the charges that the certificate was forged, especially as it was purportedly signed by administrators who were not even at the school when he graduated in 1979, but only insisted, alongside the school, that he attended and graduated.

He also said releasing the documents with deposition would cause him severe harm because they were private to him and would not be admissible in the ongoing petition against him in Nigeria, an argument that further fueled nationwide concern about what the president might have been hiding about himself from Nigerians.

The CSU said it would state under oath that Mr Tinubu attended, but it won’t be able to certify the authenticity of the certificate he paraded in Nigeria under oath.

Mr Abubakar’s lawyers would now be able to test the school’s claims, alongside Mr Tinubu’s, during tomorrow’s records release and cross-examination.

Details shortly…

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