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 of America demanded that CSU provide Atiku’s lawsuit disputing the results of the 2023 presidential election with Tinubu’s academic records for verification purposes.
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 therefore he ordered the release of the students’ academic records.
The judge has given the university just 48 hours to comply with her order and deliver the contentious academic records to the PDP presidential contender.
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 in a shortened time frame.
All briefs have been filed and the Court has reviewed the arguments presented by the parties. 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.
In accordance with the schedule and procedure outlined below, “CSU is directed to respond to Mr. Abubakar’s subpoena.”
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.
Even after conducting a full and independent review, the Court agrees with Judge Gilbert that the motion should be granted. Furthermore, the elements of Judge Gilbert’s opinion to which a party has challenged are the only ones reviewed by the Court de novo, as mentioned above.
“For the portions to which no party has objected, the opinion is reviewed only for clear error,” the court said.
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.
In fact, President Tinubu admitted as much to Judge Gilbert, and he still doesn’t deny the existence of this procedure for submitting evidence to the Supreme Court of Nigeria under “exceptional circumstances.” This means that President Tinubu’s claim that the evidence “cannot be considered under any circumstances” is not borne out by the facts.
When it comes to Nigerian law and procedure, this court cannot and will not make any assumptions. What the court has is a sworn affidavit stating the Supreme Court of Nigeria can hear additional evidence under unusual circumstances; this is something President Tinubu did not dispute before Judge Gilbert.
That Mr. Abubakar might introduce the desired discovery into the foreign proceedings is, therefore, not contested. The court also said that he would not rule on “whether the Supreme Court of Nigeria will ultimately allow Mr. Abubakar to use the documents or whether it will consider them in its decision.”
As a result of the court’s determination that the discovery and the issues involved are of “outstanding importance,” Mr. Abubakar would not be able to obtain the requested information about President Tinubu’s diploma and education from any other source.
Additionally, the judge reasoned, “These Rule 26 considerations therefore support granting the request 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 at hand.
The Court finds the final discretionary factor weighs in favor of granting the application because it concludes that Mr. Abubakar’s interest in the discovery outweighs President Tinubu’s privacy interests and because the Court need not worry about any burden to CSU in making the production.
The Court determines 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. As stated above, Mr. Abubakar did not oppose to Judge Gilbert’s judgment restricting the scope of his Request for Production No. 4, and the Court concurs that it would be premature and excessive to require CSU to conduct electronic discovery at this time.
Judge Gilbert’s decision on the scope of the discovery requests is consequently adopted by the Court. However, the component of Request No. 4 that asks for “all communications to or from CSU concerning the certification of such documents by Jamar C. Orr, Esq.” between August 1, 2022 and August 1, 2023 is optional, and CSU must comply with the other three requests for production. (Dkt. 40 at 28.) For the deposition, CSU needs to call someone who knows about all five issues listed on the subpoena.
Because of the foregoing, the Court rejects President Tinubu’s objections to Magistrate Judge Gilbert’s suggested ruling and instead approves it in its entirety. The application of Mr. Abubakar is therefore approved. 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.
Respondent CSU is now ordered to deliver all relevant and non-privileged documents by Monday, October 2, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. CDT in answer to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4 (as limited by Judge Gilbert and adopted here).
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.