Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
At last, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has admitted that its presidential candidate and the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, truly forfeited the sum of $460,000 to the Government of the United States of America, in 1993 following a drug trafficking allegation.
The admittance was in response to the petition by Peter Obi of the Labour Party at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Obi who came third at the February 25 presidential poll according to the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is challenging the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the contest, alleging among other things that Tinubu was not in the first place, qualified to contest following his involvement in the drug saga.
According to the LP candidate, Tinubu’s forfeiture of his funds to the US Government over a drug trafficking allegation, was an indication that he engaged in acts that were enough to make him ineligible from participating in the presidential poll.
Meanwhile, the APC, while responding to Obi’s petition at the tribunal, admitted in processes it filed through a team of its lawyers that Tinubu made the said forfeiture.
But the ruling party in the processes filed through its legal team led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, refuted the claim by the LP that Tinubu was also convicted as a result of the forfeiture.
According to Tinubu’s lawyers, the funds in the said accounts, which were domiciled in two commercial banks, were subject to a “civil forfeiture proceeding” in Case No: 93C4483.
Tinubu’s legal team further declared that 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 US 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 (Tinubu) 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 the office of president of Nigeria at the February 25, 2023 general election,” said Tinubu’s lawyers.
They further told the court that the Federal Government had as far back as 2003, through the US Consulate in Nigeria, inquired about Tinubu’s criminal record and the result was negative.
“In relation to your letter, dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a 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 centralised information center that maintains the records of every arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.
Tinubu, according to INEC, polled a total of 8,794,726 votes to emerge winner of the contest.
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, came second while Obi came third according to the INEC results which both Atiku and Obi said were heavily manipulated in favour of the APC candidate.
While results of the national assembly polls conducted the same day were uploaded on the INEC server, that of the presidential poll was not transmitted for reasons yet to be explained by the electoral umpire.