One of President Bola Tinubu’s counsels in the United States, Oluwole Afolabi, has played down the importance of releasing the president’s academic documents, saying it will be of no use in Atiku Abubakar’s appeal at the Supreme Court in Nigeria.
In a WhatsApp note published on Sunday by PM News, Afolabi stated that the Electoral Act does not allow for the introduction of new evidence on appeal.
“A party must provide a list of the documents he intends to rely on at the time his petition is filed. A party cannot spring a surprise on his adversary by introducing evidence that was not filed along with the petition,” Afolabi said.
Similarly, the Coordinator of the Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), said: “The documents can no longer be used. It is of no value. We have passed that stage.”
“One is whether President Tinubu attended Chicago State University. The answer is yes. Second, what were his grades in school? The school had already provided that,” Ogala added.
Recall that the United States District Court in Northern District of Illinois, Chicago,had on Sunday ruled in favour of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and ordered the Chicago State University to release Tinubu’s academic record by Monday (today).
Atiku had earlier secured an order from a US magistrate for CSU to make Tinubu’s academic records available to his legal team.
The magistrate, Jeffrey Gilbert, had ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to Atiku’s legal team within two days.
The documents sought by the PDP candidate, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the president’s record of admission and acceptance at the Chicago State University, dates of attendance as well the degrees, awards, and honours obtained by Tinubu from the CSU.
But as the deadline given by the magistrate drew nearer, Tinubu’s lawyers approached the district court, arguing that the earlier decision by the magistrate needed to be reviewed by a district judge.
The request for a review and delay of the magistrate’s order till Monday was eventually granted by the US district judge.
Tinubu’s application, filed by his New York-based lawyer, Afolabi, advanced two reasons.
First is that his academic records in issue are not useful in Nigerian courts as claimed by Atiku because “the Nigerian election proceedings and the Nigerian courts have explicitly been unreceptive to the discovery.”
His second reason is that Atiku’s request “is unduly intrusive because it allows the applicant (Atiku) to conduct a fishing expedition into the intervenor’s private, confidential, and protected educational records.”
The former vice president in a fresh response filed last Wednesday, charged the court to overrule Tinubu’s request in its entirety.
In her judgement, Maldonado noted that CSU did not object to Gilbert’s decision that the academic record be made public.
The court held that Atiku’s interest outweighs any intrusion on Tinubu’s privacy interests in his educational records.
The judge overruled Tinubu’s objections to the ruling by the magistrate ordering CSU to make his academic records available to Atiku.