The certificate controversy surrounding the winner of the Delta State Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) gubernatorial primaries, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, has in the past two days created fresh tension in the political space as media propaganda intensifies.
The Appeal Court has already reserved judgement on a suit by Oborevwori and PDP to upturn the Federal High Court judgement disqualifying his candidature as the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the 2023 general election.
However, the media space has been awash recently with claims and counter claims by both divides, all in a bid to probably influence the Appellate Court to rule in their favour.
The fresh issue of controversy was the report published in Sahara Reporters online, on the outcome of a forensic investigation on the authenticity of the WAEC result submitted by Sheriff Oborevwori to PDP and INEC by one DSP Udenze (Rtd).
The reports captioned, “Forensic Investigation Exposes How Governor Okowa’s Stooge, Oborevwori Forged, Submitted Relation’s WAEC Certificate To Electoral Body, INEC” has stirred fresh anxiety on the possible outcome of the case before the Court of Appeal.
According to the report, the forensic report was part of police investigation into the allegations obtained by Sahara Reporters during the weekend and showed that there were discrepancies in the Assembly Speaker’s certificate.
The report claimed that Oborevwori is not the owner of the certificate he claims to be his own. Though genuine, forensic investigation showed that the WAEC certificate belongs to his family member identified as Mr. Francis Oborevwori. Francis was born in 1979 and wrote the WAEC examination in 1999 whereas Sheriff Oborevwori was born in 1963 and was 36 years-old in 1999.
“That the passport photographs marked exhibit A and B are single passport photograph of one person made at a time and lifted from Document marked A, and place on the Document marked B at different period,” part of the report read.
“The passport photograph marked exhibit C-C1 is not the same person in the passport photographs marked exhibit A and B. The passport photographs marked exhibit A, B and C-C1 are different individual passport photographs.”
However, in a rejoinder by supporters of the Speaker, captioned, “Oborevwori vs Edevbie: Rejoinder to the ‘Forensic Report’ Conducted By Apex Forensic Nigeria Limited,” they claimed DSP Udenze (Rtd) was not a trained, certified facial image comparison expert.
The rejoinder reads in part, “A forensic report conducted by Apex Forensic Nigeria Limited has been widely circulated on social media. The report is the latest in a series of publicity stunts aimed at discrediting the candidature and good reputation of the Rt. Honourable Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Francis Orhowedor Oborevwori.
“Opponents of Oborevwori would like to con his supporters and unsuspecting members of the public into believing unfounded allegations of identity theft. However, a closer examination of the report exposes it as an unreliable document prepared by a “hired gun”. It is neither independent nor credible and should be disregarded in its entirety. We draw the attention of independent thinking members of the public to the following.
“The examiner, Chief Reginald Udunze, describes himself as a forensic document examiner/handwriting expert. While he may be accomplished in his field of training, there is a vast difference between a forensic document examiner and a facial image comparison expert.
“The examination of documents includes detecting alterations and obliterations, analysis of paper, detection and examination of forgery, origin, determining authenticity, and others. Members of the public should note that the examiner, Chief Udunze, does not say that any documents he examined were forged. However, with the greatest respect, Chief Udunze’s qualification as a forensic document examiner does not make him a facial image comparison expert.
“Facial image comparison experts compare images of unfamiliar faces (i.e., faces not known to them) and decide whether or not they show the same person. Given the importance of these decisions for national security and criminal investigations, practitioners attend training courses to improve their face identification ability.
“The ‘forensic examination’ starts on incorrect premise by presuming that the reference imagery was each taken at the same time, at the same angle and distance and of the same image quality. These factors can significantly affect the comparison. The examiner did not use original photographs, but images submitted by Oborevwori’s opponents. He did not analyse whether these images were altered in any way.
“Additionally, a significant amount of time elapsed between the photographs in question. The first was taken in about 1999. The second photograph was taken 15 years later, in about 2014. Finally, the third photograph was taken in about 2018, 4 years after the second photograph and 19 years after the first photograph. As individuals grow and age, facial features can change significantly.
The examiner does not account for this factor. The fallout from the Delta State Governorship primary elections has been the subject of intense media scrutiny. For this reason, the examiner should not be exposed to imagery before conducting their comparison to minimize possible sources of bias, such as confirmation bias. This is why independent verification is key and accords with international best practices.
“A second independent examiner should repeat the entire facial image comparison process to verify the result. There should have been a blind verification by the second examiner without knowing the conclusion of the first examiner. This prevents confirmation bias and preserves the integrity of the process.
There was absolutely no verification in this case. For the avoidance of doubt, Sheriff Francis Orhowedor Oborevwori has never submitted any false documents as alleged or at all. He has not stolen any person’s identity as alleged or at all – indeed, none of Oborevwori has brought forward the person they identify as the genuine holder of the identity. The reason for this failure is simple. All the photographs shown in the examination are of Sheriff Francis Orhowedor Oborevwori.
“It is curious that a document apparently addressed to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Guzape District, FCT Abuja, has found its way to WhatsApp and Facebook, instead of the intended recipient. Equally curious is how a complaint of events allegedly occurring in Delta State has found its way to Guzape District, FCT Abuja. Opponents of Sheriff Francis Orhowedor Oborevwori should test their popularity at the polling booth, not on social media pages.