*Deposition of varsity designee must be completed by 5pm tomorrow
“These are all matters for the Nigerian courts to resolve under Nigerian law, and it is not appropriate for this U.S. court to opine on such issues or attempt to predict how foreign courts might ultimately rule if and when they are presented with any evidence from CSU.”
Besides, Maldonado agreed with the lower court that Atiku’s interest in the discovery outweighed Tinubu’s privacy interests, adding that the court needs not concern itself with any burden to CSU in making the production.
Dissatisfied with the order, Tinubu had on the eve of the expiration of the order on CSU, approached the district court to temporarily halt the discharge of the order for discovery till September 25, when he would file his appeal against the order.
He also pleaded protection and privacy laws regarding the release of academic records in the US. In urging the district court to rescind the order of the magistrate court, he said the documents Atiku sought from the court were for mere expedition purposes, which could not be used at the apex court in Nigeria.
But delivering judgement on Saturday, Maldonado upheld and adopted the judgement of Gilbert. The judge noted that Atiku’s case had merit, adding that the order cannot be limited to the Diploma certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC.
“But even if he had, the court independently finds the requests are appropriately tailored to seek relevant information. Atiku did not object to the portion of Judge Gilbert’s ruling limiting the scope of his request for production four mentioned above, and at any rate, the court agrees that asking CSU to conduct electronic discovery is neither justified nor feasible at this time.
“The court, therefore, adopts Judge Gilbert’s ruling on the scope of the discovery requests. CSU must respond to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4, though CSU need not respond to the portion of Request No. 4 that seeks ‘all communications to or from CSU concerning the certification of such documents by Jamar C. Orr, Esq., during the period of August 1, 2022 to August 1, 2023.’ (Dkt. 40 at 28.)
“As for the deposition, CSU must produce a witness that can address all five topics identified in the subpoena.”
She disclosed that in arriving at its conclusion, the court held that the magistrate court, contrary to Tinubu’s claim, did not give a final ruling, but only a “report and recommendation” subject to de novo review for any objected-to portions.
“In other words, it is undisputed that there is a mechanism by which Atiku could potentially inject the requested discovery into the foreign proceedings. Whether the Supreme Court of Nigeria will ultimately allow Atiku to use the documents, or whether it will consider them in its decision, are not questions for the court to resolve.
While overruling Tinubu’s objection, the court stated that Atiku “does not just question the authenticity of one diploma, but also questions whether President Tinubu actually attended and received any undergraduate degree from CSU at all, notwithstanding the fact that CSU has stated that President Tinubu did attend and receive a degree on June 22, 1979.
While adding that Atiku’s case was not limited solely to the authenticity of a single document, but rather generally raised questions about Tinubu’s (and CSU’s) assertions about his attendance and graduation, the court held that discovery on other documents from CSU related to the president’s attendance and graduation were relevant to his claims, and properly considered to be “for use in” the foreign proceedings.
The judge ruled, “The court, therefore, finds that the ‘for use in’ statutory requirement under section 1782 is satisfied. The court reiterates, as mentioned at the outset, that in reaching this finding the court is not taking a position on the merits of any of Atiku’s underlying claims as to the authenticity of the diploma submitted to the INEC, President Tinubu’s education and graduation, or the truth of what is or is not shown in any other CSU documents that have been produced in the Nigerian proceedings.
“Nor should the court’s opinion be read as taking any position on any of the broader claims as to the validity of the election or what the documents and discovery from CSU might or might not show.
“The court simply finds that Mr. Abubakar has cleared the relatively low hurdle of showing that the documents he seeks could be relevant to his claims (either proving them or disproving them) and could potentially be presented to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“In light of the pending Supreme Court of Nigeria deadline, represented to the court as October 5, 2023, and based on CSU’s representations that it is ready to comply with the discovery requests and produce a witness, the court sets an expedited schedule for completion of discovery.
“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. Given the October 5, 2023, filing deadline before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court will not extend or modify these deadlines.”
However, a five-member panel of the presidential election tribunal, in their unanimous judgement delivered on September 6, dismissed Atiku and PDP’s petition for lacking in merit.
He predicated his application on Order 2 of the Supreme Court Rule, which stipulates, “A party who wishes the court to receive the evidence of witnesses (whether they were or were not called at the trial) or to order the production of any document, exhibit or other thing connected with the proceedings in accordance with the provisions of Section 33 of the Act, shall apply for leave on notice of motion prior to the date set down for the hearing of the appeal.
The irregularities prompted Atiku to file the suit to compel CSU to produce records relating to Tinubu and make its top officials available for deposition to certify the produced records, according to the Nigerian opposition leader’s lawyers.
In addition, Atiku sought for a deposition by CSU pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 30(b)(6), seeking to explore five topics through deposition: (1) the authenticity of the documents produced by CSU in response to the application and how and where CSU located the documents; (2) CSU’s position on the authenticity of other CSU documents related to Tinubu purportedly produced by CSU in another Nigerian proceeding (“Enahoro-Ebah v. Tinubu”); (3) the contents of an affidavit from CSU’s registrar Caleb Westberg; (4) CSU’s position on the authenticity of a letter from Westberg (the “Westberg Letter”) on CSU letterhead regarding Tinubu, including who requested the letter, who prepared the letter, and to whom it was sent; and (5) CSU’s position on the authenticity of the Orr Documents and other facts regarding why the documents were certified, if Mr. Orr was authorised to do so, who requested the documents, and to whom they were sent.