The United States District Court in Northern Illinois has given Chicago State University (CSU) 48 hours starting from Saturday to release President Bola Tinubu’s academic records to an opposition candidate in Nigeria’s February presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.
In a ruling delivered on Saturday, the judge, Nancy Maldonado, after dismissing Tinubu’s objection, gave the university until 12 noon on Monday to release the documents to Atiku.
Maldonando dismissed Tinubu’s objection to the 20 September decision of a magistrate judge of the court, Jeffery Gilbert.
The judge on Saturday fully affirmed Gilbert’s ruling ordering the CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records as requested by Atiku. She insisted Atiku had the right to have access to the records.
“For the reasons stated in the Court’s accompanying Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court overrules Tinubu’s objections (44] and adopts Judge Gilbert’s recommended decision  in full.
“The Court therefore grants Abubakar’s application under 28 U.S.C. § 1782. ,” Maldonado ruled.
She said the CSU must complete all necessary filings with regard to the release by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Respondent CSU is directed to produce all relevant and non-privileged documents in response to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4 (as narrowed by Judge Gilbert and adopted by the District Court in its opinion) in Abubakar’s subpoena, by 12:00 p.m. (noon) CDT, on Monday, October 2, 2023.
“The Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of CSU’s corporate designee must be completed by 5:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 3, 2023,” the court ordered.
Atiku had asked for the documents for use in Nigerian courts to support his argument that Tinubu forged a diploma certificate he claimed to have obtained from CSU in 1979 and submitted to Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, for the 2023 presidential election.
This, Atiku argued, goes to the root of Tinubu’s qualification to contest the last presidential election.
Although Atiku lost his case against Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which delivered its judgement in early September, he hopes to reintroduce the issue backed with the documents from the CSU in his appeal which he is pursuing against the election court’s decision at the Nigerian Supreme Court.
Atiku had told the US district court that he had up to 5 October to file the documents from the CSU against Tinubu at the Supreme Court.
Tinubu mounted stiff opposition to the release of the documents to Atiku, arguing that “the Nigerian election proceedings and the Nigerian courts” had explicitly rejected the documents Atiku sought to obtain and tender in his case aimed at overturning the results of the 25 presidential elections.
Tinubu’s second reason is that Atiku’s request “is unduly intrusive because it allows Applicant (Atiku) to conduct a fishing expedition into Intervenor’s private, confidential, and protected educational records.”
Court order not confirmation of Atiku’s forgery allegation
But dismissing Tinubu’s objection on Saturday, Maldonado said she was only affirming Atiku’s right to have access to the CSU documents, not confirming the merit of his allegations against the Nigerian president or his comments on the validity of the country’s presidential election.
“In reaching this conclusion, the Court emphasises that it is expressing no view on the merits of Abubakar’s underlying claims regarding Tinubu or his graduation from CSU, or on the validity of the Nigerian election.
“Nor is the Court taking any position on what any of the documents or testimony from CSU may or may not ultimately show. The Court simply finds, on the narrow question before it, that Abubakar is entitled to the production of documents and testimony that he seeks from CSU,” a summary of the judgement read in part.
‘No more order of stay’
Given the time constraints Atiku has to file the CSU documents at Nigeria’s Supreme Court, Maldonado cautioned Tinubu not to bother applying for a stay of the order, as such application would be denied.
She said his only option is to take up such an application for a stay of execution at the US Court of Appeals.
“Given the October 5, 2023 filing deadline before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court will not extend or modify these deadlines.
“Further, the Court notes that at the recent emergency hearing, the possibility of a stay pending an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was raised. The Court cautions Tinubu that any request for a stay before this Court will be denied, as the Court finds any stay impracticable in light of the fast-approaching Supreme Court of Nigeria deadlines.
“Tinubu is, of course, free to request a stay directly from the Seventh Circuit should he file any appeal. Judgment is entered in favour of Atiku Abubakar.”
As of Sunday morning, it was not clear if Tinubu had filed an appeal at the US Court of Appeals.
Tinubu’s CSU documents ordered for release
The court ordered CSU to release four sets of documents relating to Tinubu as requested by Atiku.
They are true and correct copies of:
*An exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma issued to President Tinubu in 1979;
*Mr Tinubu’s diploma issued in 1979;
*Any exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma that “contains the same font, seal, signatures, and wording as contained in Exhibit C to the First Liu Declaration, which purports to be a CSU diploma issued to Tinubu on or about June 22, 1979″; and
* The CSU documents that were certified and produced by Jamar Orr (an associate general counsel at CSU) as well as communications relating to these documents.