US Judge adjourns Chicago University records case following Tinubu’s appeal

Nancy Maldonado, a Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has halted the release of his university records to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.

The order staying the execution of Magistrate Jeffrey Gilbert at the Chicago State University, came after Tinubu’s plea that releasing the said documents to Atiku would cause him “severe and irreparable harm.”

In a ruling on Tuesday night, Gilbert ordered the Chicago State University (CSU) to release the academic records of Tinubu to Atiku within 48 hours to enable him to prove his claim that Tinubu ought not to have contested the February 25 presidential election on account of alleged perjury and forgery of his CSU certificate.

The judge ruled that the applicant, Atiku, a former vice-president of Nigeria had shown sufficient reasons why Tinubu’s academic records should be released to him.

The court also ordered the school’s administrators to authenticate any documents submitted under oath. The order for discovery was to come into effect at 3 p.m. on Thursday, before it was stayed by the district court.

Tinubu, in a fresh application specifically asked the District Court to delay the enforcement of the order of Judge Gilbert till Monday, September 25, 2023.

He claimed former vice president Atiku would not be prejudiced against if the court delayed the release of the said documents as he still has up to September 27 to submit materials in support of his appeal at the Supreme Court.

In a short ruling on Thursday night, Chicago time, September 21, Judge Maldonado, who agreed that the matter might be too severe for Tinubu to bear, subsequently granted the application, adding that, “this needs to be handled with care.”

Accordingly, Maldonado directed Tinubu’s lawyers to file a full brief on the matter before or by Monday, September 25, stating that the court may ultimately adopt the magistrate’s recommendation and allow the discovery to go forward, or ask all parties to file fresh briefs in the matter.

Atiku had on August 2 brought an application compelling the CSU to release information regarding Tinubu’s record arguing that Section 137 (1)(j) of the Nigerian Constitution (amended in 2010), specifically stating that no one would be legitimately elected president of Nigeria if the person “has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

Tinubu had on June 17, 2022, submitted a certificate to INEC that was purportedly issued in 1979 and signed by Elnora Daniel. But Ms. Daniel only arrived at CSU in 1998 from Hampton University, 19 years after Mr. Tinubu was said to have graduated.

During a hearing on the matter on September 12, the CSU’s lawyer Michael Hayes, said the school could not authenticate Tinubu’s certificate if asked under oath, although he said Tinubu attended the school and graduated in 1979.