Justice Nancy Maldonado, of the United States (US) court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, has warned that no more request for stay of execution on the order of the court to release all the documents relating to the academic records of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the Chicago State University (CSU), would be entertained.
Justice Maldonado warned President Tinubu not to approach the court again with such a request.
The court affirmed the judgement by Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert of the Magistrate of the Northern District of Illinois in a Chicago court.
Justice Gilbert had earlier ordered the CSU to release President Tinubu’s academic records by Monday, October 2, 2023.
In what represents a major victory for Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, the judge specifically mentioned all relevant and non-privileged documents, such as Tinubu’s admission records, transcripts, and any other documents related to his education at CSU.
Former Vice President Atiku had filed a lawsuit in the US court seeking to compel the Chicago State University to release Tinubu’s academic records, arguing that they were necessary for his case in Nigeria, in which he is challenging Tinubu’s victory in the 2023 presidential election, a matter that has since shifted to the Supreme Court, after the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) dismissed it for lacking in merit.
On September 23, Tinubu appealed against the ruling of Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert, sitting at the United States’ District Court of Northern Illinois which ordered the Chicago State University (CSU) to release all relevant records pertaining to him to Atiku.
Tinubu pleaded with Judge Nancy Maldonado to block all other details, especially the gender and admission records, among others, of the owner of the certificate, arguing that releasing them would cause him severe damage.
In yesterday’s judgment, Justice Maldonado said:
“Given the October 5, 2023, filing deadline before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court will not extend or modify these deadlines.”
She dismissed the objection raised by Tinubu against Atiku’s request and expressly ordered that the CSU must submit the academic records to Atiku.
The judge granted all the four grounds upon which the former vice president of Nigeria predicted his case in the US court.
Justice Maldonado said that Tinubu’s “angry rhetoric” cannot take the place of evidence, hence the order that the academic records be released in the interest of justice.
The Harvard University-trained Judge specifically issued an ultimatum of 48 hours to the university within which to comply with her order and release the controversial academic records to the PDP presidential candidate.
Maldonado, in the judgment, pointed out that Tinubu did not adduce any sound evidence to overturn the judgment of the Magistrate Court, which had earlier granted Atilku’s request for discovery before Tinubu moved to scuttle execution of the order.
“Given that the Nigerian court deadlines were fast approaching, the Court set an expedited briefing schedule on President Tinubu’s objections.
“The parties have now completed that briefing, and the Court has reviewed their submissions.
For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court overrules President Tinubu’s objections and adopts Judge Gilbert’s recommended decision in full.
“The Court therefore grants Mr. Abubakar’s application under 28 U.S.C. § 1782. CSU is directed to respond to Mr. Abubakar’s subpoena in the time and manner provided for below.”
Amongst the issues raised by Tinubu in objecting to the release of his academic records include claims of privacy and that Atiku was on a fishing expedition since he can no longer use the documents to prosecute his appeal at the Supreme Court.
However, Maldonado stated that Judge Gilbert did not give a final judgment in the application dated August 2, but rather gave a “report and recommendation” subject to de novo review for any objected-to portions.
“Of course, as will be seen below, even under de novo review, the Court ultimately reaches the same conclusion as Judge Gilbert and finds that the application should be granted. And further, as noted above, the Court only reviews de novo those portions of Judge Gilbert’s opinion to which a party has objected.
“For the portions to which no party has objected, the opinion is reviewed only for clear error.”
On Tinubu’s submission that the documents cannot be presented to the apex court to prove Atiku’s case, the court held 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.
“Indeed, President Tinubu expressly conceded that was the case before Judge Gilbert, and he still does not dispute that this procedural mechanism for presenting evidence to the Supreme Court of Nigeria under “exceptional circumstances” exists.
President Tinubu’s suggestion then that the evidence “cannot be considered under any circumstances” is thus unsupported by the record.