By Obinna Amaobi
The All Progressives Congress, APC, has opened up on circumstances that led its candidate and President-elect, Bola Tinubu, to forfeit the sum of $460,000 to the government of the United States of America, USA, in 1993.
The ruling party, in processes it filed to defend the outcome of the presidential election that was held on February 25, maintained that Tinubu, who was its candidate, merely surrendered funds in 10 bank accounts that were opened in either his name or that of Compass Finance and Investment Co.
It told the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, that funds in the said accounts, which were domiciled in both First Heritage Bank and Citi Bank N. A, were subject to a “civil forfeiture proceeding” in Case No: 93C4483.
According to the APC, the purported decision of the United State District Court Northern District of Illinois, Eastern division in the said case, was not a fine but a decree of forfeiture of the amount of $460,000 to the United State pursuant to the settlement of claim by the parties to the case.
“The said decision is not against the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) but against the funds in the various account opened in the name of Bola Tinubu with First Heritage Bank and City Bank N.A.
“The compromise terms that led to the forfeiture were preceded by express admission on record that the 2nd Respondent did not admit the commission of any drug, drug-related or illicit conduct of dishonesty or fraud that fits into any of the grounds of disqualification to contest for office of president of Nigeria at the 25th February, 2023 general election,” APC insisted.
It listed the 10 account numbers that contained funds that Tinubu forfeited after the settlement of claim by parties involved in the case, as: 263226700, 39483134, 39483396, 4650279566, 00400220, 39936404, 39936383, 52050-89451952, 52050-89451952 and 52050-89451953.
Besides, the APC, through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that the Federal Government had as far back as 2003, through the American Consulate in Nigeria, inquired about Tinubu’s criminal record.
It said the outcome of the inquiry which FG made through the Inspector-General of Police, “yielded a clean bill of health that unequivocally and unreservedly cleared 2nd Respondent of any criminal record, interest or association in the United States of America”.
“The formal clearance report dated February 4, 2003, under the hand of Legal attaché to the United States Embassy, Nigeria in response to the inquiry by the Inspector General of Police is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon for its full effect; particularly the portion in the second paragraph which states-
‘In relation to your letter, dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, records check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ‘s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) was conducted.
‘The results of the checks were negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (DOB 29 March. 1952). For information of your department, NCIC is a centralized information center that maintains the records of every arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.’
APC said it would apply for a subpoena to be issued again at the IGP to enable him to adduce and tender in evidence, the letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, which triggered the clearance letter of the Legal attaché of the US Embassy in Nigeria, as well as the response to same dated 4th February 2003.
It further argued that the said forfeiture Tinubu made to the US government, having lasted a period of 29 years, was no longer a valid ground to challenge his eligibility to contest the presidential election.
“The Respondent states that, in any event, the impleaded decision of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division is not a decision by a competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria; and same has been falsely, mischievously paraded by 2nd Respondent’s political adversaries like the petitioners, detractors and haters to scandalize, demonize and de-market him to the Nigerian electorate at the 25th February 2023 general election with a view to delegitimizing his well-earned victory at the polls, despite all legitimate and fact-checked denials and rebuttals as exemplified by the official report from the United States affirming his innocence and exonerating him from the touted drug connection and criminal conviction.
“The Respondent states further that in any event, the said decree of forfeiture was made by Judge John A Nordberg in the said Case No: 93C4483 on the 4th day of October 1993, a period of 29 years before the 25th day of February 2023 when the said presidential election was duly conducted by the 1st Respondent.
“The Respondent avers that the allegations referred to in the said paragraph have been subjecting to litigation and duly litigated upon by a court of competent jurisdiction in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.
“The Respondent further avers that having been litigated upon by a competent court of law, this Honorable Court is estopped from retrying the same issues that have been appealed against. The Respondent shall find and rely upon the judgment in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.
“Without prejudice to the above, the Respondent avers that the Nigeria Police Force investigated the 2nd Respondent regarding any record of criminal arrest and/or conviction. The investigation was extensive and far-reaching.
“Consequently, the American Consulate, Lagos Nigeria revealed that there was no record whatsoever of any criminal arrest, warrants and/or conviction regarding the 2nd Respondent. The Respondent shall find and rely on the letter issued by the Embassy of the United States of America, Nigeria dated 4th February 2003.
“Furthermore, the release from forfeiture of other monies in the account the subject of the proceedings in Case No: 93C4483; in excess of one million dollars and for the benefit of the named beneficiary K.O Tinubu though not the account holder, less forfeited sum of $460,000.00 (Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars) is a manifest affirmation that the case was not a criminal trial and the fund forfeited was not a fine imposed as a punishment for a criminal conviction of any person- let alone the 2nd Respondent.
“The disqualification factors as stipulated by the Constitution only conceives of a conviction sentence or fine involving dishonesty or fraud or contravention of the Code of Conduct as found by a Court of the law of competent jurisdiction or Tribunal in Nigeria,” it added.
While urging the court to strike out petitions against Tinubu, the APC argued that Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who alleged that Tinubu was convicted for a drug-related case, lacked the requisite locus standi to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
Insisting that Obi was not validly nominated by the LP, the APC, stressed that he was not a member of the party, at least 30 days before it conducted its presidential primary election.
It told the court that Obi was a member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, till May 24 2022, adding that he was screened as a presidential aspirant of the party in April, 2022.
APC further averred that whereas Obi joined the LP on May 27, he was subsequently declared the winner of the presidential primary election the LP held on May 30, 2022.
“By section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the 2nd Petitioner (LP) is mandated to have submitted its comprehensive register of members to the 1st Respondent 30 days before its presidential primary.
“That is to say the said register of members must have been submitted to the 1st Respondent on or before 30th April, 2022.
“The 1st Petitioner (Obi) as at 30th April, 2022 was still a member of the PDP and his name was not and could not have been in the register of members submitted by the 2nd Petitioner to 1st Respondent (INEC).
“The Petition herein is incompetent as the 1st Petitioner is not a member of the 2nd Petitioner since the 1st Petitioner’s name is not, and could have been listed in the list of the register made available by the 2nd Petitioner to the 1st Respondent, same having been made available before the 1st Petitioner joined the 2nd Petitioner”.
It, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss or strike out Obi’s petition “wholly or in part as may be appropriate”.