President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday opened his defence with three key witnesses, including his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, in the petition challenging his victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
In his evidence before Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member tribunal, Kyari admitted that no certificate was listed on the president’s curriculum vitae, and that none was among the documents obtained from the Cambridge University earlier tendered as exhibits.
Before his evidence, lead counsel to the president, Chief Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had tendered 29 documents through Buhari’s first witness, Major General Paul Tarfa (retd), including certified true copies of certificates and results of Cambridge examinations, which Buhari took in 1961.
The documents included Buhari’s West African Examination Council (WAEC) Certificate, which was tendered alongside a group photograph he took with his classmates at the Provisional Secondary School, Katsina State, in 1961, through his team of lawyers, led by Olanipekun.
Specifically, the second batch of eight documents comprised Cambridge Assessment International Certified statement of West African School Certificate for Buhari, who Olanipekun said passed the exam in second grade in 1961. Others were the collection receipt for the result, CTC of confidential result sheet of the University of Cambridge West African School Certificate in 1961, for Provincial Secondary School Katsina, which showed Buhari with his classmates, group photograph of Form 6 students of his set in school, as well as the printout of online news publication of January 22, 2015, with respect to the set.
Olanipekun also tendered certificate of compliance for the documents as prescribed in section 24 of Evidence Act, and a letter of commendation from a Commandant of the US Army to General Akin Ade in June 13, 1980, concerning President Buhari.
Meanwhile, Atiku’s lawyer, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), challenged admissibility of the documents.
While objecting to them, he described the first set of documents as “very strange,” adding that he would subsequently adduce reasons Buhari’s certificate, which he said was never pleaded nor listed by the second respondent, lacked probative value.
The first witness, Major Gen. Tarfa, said he was a mate with the president in the Nigeria Army and that they were all enlisted on April 16, 1962.
He said they were enlisted upon passing the examination and that they were thought in all the courses they attended in English language.
Under cross-examination by lawyer to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yunus Usman (SAN), the witness said they were not asked to submit their certificates to the Nigeria Army.
Usman: “You submitted all your school certificates to the Nigerian Army when you were enlisted?”
Witness: “There was nothing of such.
On their part, counsel representing the INEC, Usman and APC, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) did not object to the admissibility of the documents.
Kyari, who was Buhari’s third defence witness, also admitted obtaining the Cambridge documents personally on July 18, 2019.
Answering questions put to him under cross examination by the petitioners’ counsel, Kyari said he was 67 years old and that he had known Buhari for nearly 40 years.
He also told the tribunal that he signed for and collected the Cambridge documents for the assessment by Cambridge.
The Chief of Staff to the president confirmed that none of the documents contained a certificate as the Cambridge documents were “assessments.”
He also confirmed that the curriculum vitae signed by Buhari did not have any certificate listed, apart from the list of schools attended by the president.
He also admitted that the Diploma in Strategic Study, which he claimed Buhari possessed, was not listed in the president’s CV.
Under cross-examination by the APC’s lawyer, Fagbemi, Kyari, however, maintained that Atiku was a Cameroonian by being born in Jadda in 1946, as of the time of which the part of Adamawa State was still a part of northern Cameroon.
He also identified Buhari in a picture of those who were said to be the president’s classmates and teachers, while graduating as a Class 6 pupil.