The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, says it has jurisdiction in the case instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to compel Chicago State University (CSU) to produce critical documents relating to Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Tinubu, who is the president of Nigeria, contested the February 25, 2023 presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku’s application was spurred by an earlier case in Nigeria precisely on November 9, 2022, several months before the presidential elections, in which one Mr. Mike Enahoro-Ebah, described as a “Human Rights Defender and Public Interest Litigator” in Abuja, Nigeria, commenced proceedings against Mr. Tinubu by filing a “Direct Criminal Complaint” in the Chief Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In his complaint, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah alleged that Mr. Tinubu submitted an “Affidavit of Personal Particulars” to INEC in June 2022 as part of a required filing to run for President that included a forged CSU diploma dated June 22, 1979 and other information that is inconsistent with the CSU documents.
According to court papers filed by Atiku in the US court dated August 2, 2023, to support the allegations, “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.
In response to the subpoena, CSU’s Registrar, Mr. Caleb Westberg sent a letter dated September 22, 2022, to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah’s Chicago counsel, Mr. Matthew J. Kowals, advising 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).
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.
Applicant’s researc, therefore, calls into question the authenticity of both the June 22 and the June 27 diplomas.
In his complaint, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah alleged the following additional discrepancies between the information provided by Mr. Tinubu to INEC and the documents 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.
Pursuant to the above, Atiku, by and through his counsel, applied to the Court for an order granting him leave to compel CSU to release and verify the authenticity of documents purportedly issued to Tinubu by the university.
Going by available court papers, the Court has established that it has jurisdiction over this matter in accordance with US laws which “authorizes any “interested person” to request that a United States District Court order the discovery of documents and testimony for use in a foreign proceeding from persons that “reside or [are] found” within its District.”
The court said Atiku has 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.
Having met all requirements, the court said it would not hesitate to grant the prayers of Atiku.