Atiku Abubakar, candidate for president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has won yet another court case challenging President Bola Tinubu’s academic credentials ahead of the presidential election on February 25.
In order to vote in the election, Tinubu had to provide certifications from Chicago State University (CSU) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
On Saturday, a judge in the United States ordered CSU to hand up Tinubu’s academic records so that they could be used as evidence in Atiku’s petition challenging the results of the 2023 presidential election.
In a verdict, Justice Nancy Maldonado overruled Tinubu’s objection to Atiku’s request and ordered the CSU to hand over the student information.
The judge upheld the former Vice President’s case on all four of the bases he had shown in the United States.
Justice Maldonado ruled that Tinubu’s threats against witnesses cannot be accepted as evidence, and thus he ordered that the student records be made public.
The judge has given the university only 48 hours to deliver the contentious academic records to the PDP presidential contender or face further legal action.
The Magistrate Court had granted Atilku’s motion before Tinubu moved to halt execution of the order, and Justice Maldonado noted in his ruling that Tinubu had not shown sufficient evidence to overturn that decision.
In light of the imminent deadlines in the Nigerian courts, the Court ordered President Tinubu’s objections to be briefed as quickly as possible.
The Court has read the parties’ submissions and found them to be complete. The Court rejects President Tinubu’s arguments and follows Judge Gilbert’s suggested decision in its entirety for the reasons set forth in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.
Therefore, the application filed by Mr. Abubakar under 28 U.S.C. 1782 is granted.
“CSU is ordered to comply with Mr. Abubakar’s subpoena in the manner and within the time specified below.”
Since the presidential tribunal did not hear Tinubu’s case, Tinubu has objected to the publication of his academic records on the grounds that doing so would violate his right to privacy and that Atiku was engaged in a fishing expedition.
In the application from August 2, Judge Gilbert issued a “report and recommendation” that is subject to de novo review for the elements that were challenged, as indicated by Justice Maldonado.
Naturally, as will be seen below, the Court agrees with Judge Gilbert’s decision and concludes that the application should be granted even after conducting a de novo review. The elements of Judge Gilbert’s opinion to which a party has challenged are the only ones the Court will review de novo, as mentioned above.
“For the portions to which no party has objected, the opinion is reviewed only for clear error,” the judge stated.
Court rules that Tinubu failed to provide “any testimony or evidence indicating that the Court of Appeal decision somehow prevents the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in its discretion, from considering new arguments and evidence under exceptional circumstances” when he argued that the documents could not be presented to the apex court to prove Atiku’s case.
Indeed, President Tinubu admitted such was the situation before Judge Gilbert, and he still does not deny that this procedural option for presenting evidence to the Supreme Court of Nigeria under “exceptional circumstances” exists. The claim that the evidence “cannot be considered under any circumstances” made by President Tinubu is therefore not supported by the facts.
This Court will not and cannot make assumptions about the legal system in Nigeria. Supreme Court of Nigeria can examine new evidence in rare circumstances, according to a signed document that President Tinubu did not oppose before Judge Gilbert.
That Mr. Abubakar might introduce the desired discovery into the foreign proceedings is, therefore, not contested. The judge continued, “It is not for this Court to decide whether the Supreme Court of Nigeria would ultimately allow Mr. Abubakar to use the papers or whether it will consider them in its determination.
Accordingly, the court determined that CSU had exclusive access to the discovery, ruling that Mr. Abubakar has no alternative means of obtaining the requested information about President Tinubu’s diploma and schooling.
Furthermore, the judge reasoned, “These Rule 26 grounds consequently support granting the motion for discovery.
When the respondent is ready and prepared to offer discovery, the court will not stand in the way of information that is only held by a U.S. institution but is crucial to the case.
The final discretionary factor weighs in favor of granting the application because the Court finds that Mr. Abubakar’s interest in the discovery outweighs President Tinubu’s privacy interests and the Court need not worry about any burden to CSU in making the production.
The Court concludes that Mr. Abubakar’s application should be granted because three of the discretionary reasons weigh in his favor and one is neutral. President Tinubu’s only complaint about Judge Gilbert’s rulings on the discovery requests is that they are too broad in scope.
But even if he had, the demands are narrowly tailored to obtain the facts the court needs. Mr. Abubakar did not object to Judge Gilbert’s judgment restricting the scope of his Request for Production No. 4, and the Court agrees that it would be unreasonable and impractical to require CSU to conduct electronic discovery at this time.
So, the decision made by Judge Gilbert regarding the breadth of the discovery requests is adopted by this Court. All communications to or from CSU concerning the certification of such documents by Jamar C. Orr, Esq. throughout the period August 1, 2022 to August 1, 2023 are not required to be produced by CSU in response to Request No. 4. (Dkt. 40 at 28.) CSU must provide a witness for the deposition who is knowledgeable about all five of the issues listed on the subpoena.
Accordingly, the Court rejects President Tinubu’s arguments against Magistrate Judge Gilbert’s suggested ruling and instead approves it in its entirety for the reasons stated above. Therefore, we approve Mr. Abubakar’s application. Since CSU has informed the Court that it is prepared to respond to the discovery requests and produce a witness by the October 5, 2023 date set by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court has decided to move the discovery process along more quickly.
On or by Monday, October 2, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) CDT, Respondent CSU shall submit all relevant and non-privileged documents in answer to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4 (as limited by Judge Gilbert and approved below).
On or before Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. CDT, you must have concluded your deposition under Rule 30(b)(6) of the CSU Corporate Designee. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has set the filing deadline for October 5, 2023, and it will neither extend or change this date.