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Alleged forgery: Duke fights back • Releases certificates to the public • US varsity speaks

Posted by Yusuf Alli, Yemi Ajayi, Dotun Oladipo and Stanley Yakubu on 2004/11/26 | Views: 1525 |

Alleged forgery: Duke fights back • Releases certificates to the public • US varsity speaks

Cross River State Governor, Mr. Donald Duke, fought back on Tuesday against allegations of certificate forgery levelled against him.

Cross River State Governor, Mr. Donald Duke, fought back on Tuesday against allegations of certificate forgery levelled against him.

A petitioner, Mr. Ojoi Ojoi, a former deputy governorship candidate of the National Democratic Party in the state, had asked a Federal High Court, Abuja for an order of mandamus compelling the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, to investigate alleged certificate forgeries by Duke.

Ruling on Ojoi’s request last Friday, Justice Stephen Adah said, "The application shall be by way of motion on notice and must be served on the respondents (IG and the Attorney-General of the Federation) along with copies of all the processes filed."

The court will on December 3 hear arguments from lawyer to the applicant, Mr. Amobi Nzelu, on why it must compel the IG to investigate the governor.

Both the IG and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Akin Olujimi, are respondents in the matter.

But Duke, represented by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Eyo Ekpo, in a telephone interview with our correspondents denied the allegations.

He said the allegations were the handiwork of mischief makers, to score cheap political point.

According to him, the allegations were part of issues raised at the election petition tribunal where Duke's opponents challenged his victory in the last gubernatorial election.

He said the tribunal subpoenaed the Dean, Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, who confirmed that the governor graduated.

Ekpo also responded, point by point, to details of the alleged forgeries, which were contained in an affidavit sworn to by one Pascal Ngwu, a lawyer in the chambers of Nzelu.

The commissioner denied the allegation that Duke's certificate was withheld by the Senate of the Ahmadu Bello University because he embezzled students' union funds.

According to him, if the governor had fiddled with the funds, the union would not have awarded Duke a certificate of honour.

A copy of the certificate of honour faxed to our correspondents noted that Duke was being honour "for his selfless contributions to the progress of the union during the Session 1980/81 in his capacity as the Director of Socials."

The certificate was signed by four persons, including the President, Mallam Kashim Zannan and Director, Institute of Administration, Dr. Yahaya Aliyu, who was also the patron of the union.

On the alleged evasion of the National Youth Service Corps scheme, Ekpo said as at the time Duke presented himself for the NYSC scheme, he was above the 30-year-old age ceiling, which qualified him for exemption.

He said the governor, shortly after graduation from the Nigerian Law School and after being called to the Bar, had proceeded abroad for his Master's degree in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The governor, according to Ekpo, was exempted based on his age as at the time he presented himself for the scheme.

He said, after Duke’s postgraduate course, he was above the 30-year age limit for participation in the NYSC programme.

Ekpo, further claimed that it would not have been possible for the governor to attend the Nigerian Law School if he had not validly graduated from the ABU's Faculty of Law.

He said, "I've seen the original copies of his certificates. Nobody is allowed to attend Law School without the presentation of his original certificate or statement of result from his institution. The Council of Legal Education has a committee set up to verify prospective students' claims before they are admitted to the Law School."

Among the documents faxed to our correspondents are: a certificate from ABU, dated August 22, 1982, showing that the governor was conferred with the Bachelor of Law with Second Class Honours (Lower Division); the LL.M degree certificate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Certificate of Exemption from NYSC, which stated that Duke was exempted "on grounds of age;" and a certificate from the Council of Legal Education, stating that Duke "passed the examination for Call to the Bar."

Asked if the governor was ready for the probe by the Inspector-General of Police as demanded by the plaintiffs, Ekpo said, "This is a simple investigation. We are talking about facts. The facts are there to speak for the governor.

"Before the IG comes to Calabar, he has to go to INEC to ask for the documents presented by the governor. If he (IG) were to do the right thing, he would go to ABU to cross check. He will ask the school to produce the records of the governor and if the IG is not satisfied, he can ask for the picture of the person that claimed to be Duke to verify if it matches that of the governor.

"The IG won't come to Calabar. Not because of the governor's immunity, but because it is unnecessary.

"The whole thing is nothing but an irritant. The truth is there. It stands like a rock. You can't run away from it. It is all political."

When our correspondents visited the Faculty of Law at the Institute of Administration, Kongo Campus of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, none of its principal officers was ready to entertain any enquiry on Duke.

A top source said, "please go to the main campus and meet the Vice-Chancellor on this issue. It is a sensitive matter, we do not have the mandate to make any clarification."

At the main campus in Samaru, the Public Relations Officer of ABU, Mallam Usman Abdullahi simply said, "please, write a formal letter to the Vice Chancellor on this issue."

"We cannot give you any response on your enquiry unless you send it through an official procedure."

But the University of Pennsylvania broke its silence on the controversy by confirming that Duke obtained a Master of Laws degree from the institution in 1984.

Our correspondents sent e-mail messages to both the Registrar of the University and the alumni relations unit.

In a message by Virginia Wismer of the Registrar’s office, Mr. Duke received an LLM degree from the University of Pennsylvania on May 21, 1984."

Also, Sandra Mosgo of the Faculty of Law simply said, "Mr. Duke is an alumnus and he did graduate in 1984."

In another response, Janell Wesley of Alumni Relations unit simply wrote: "Mr. Duke Esq received his Master of Laws from the Pennsylvania in 1984."

The Punch, Wednesday, November 24, 2004

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