Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Rights activist and lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, has given a legal explanation behind Tinubu’s plot to block the release of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents on him.
Earlier this week, Tinubu’s lawyers in the US filed motions to appear in an ongoing freedom of information action brought against FBI, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other United States agencies, where records that may help to answer questions about Bola Tinubu’s real identity and decades-long endeavours are domiciled.
This was after it was reported in September that from October, the FBI would start releasing approximately 2,500 documents relating to President Tinubu in its database.
This recent event have been viewed by many as an attempt by Tinubu’s lawyers to stall the release of the documents just like they unsuccessfully tried to do with his academic records at the Chicago State University, CSU.
Giving a legal explanation on Tinubu’s move, Mahmud, a former president of National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, said it was to ensure that damaging files are not in the public space during the hearing of the Supreme Court election appeals against him
The explanation posted on his X (formerly Twitter) handle @ abdulMahmud01 read: “Move by BAT to block FBI releases of files it and other federal agencies have on him isn’t strange. What isn’t strange too is that he is doing it for one purpose: ensure that damaging files aren’t in the public space during the hearing of the Supreme Court election appeals against him.
“BAT’S move – ostensibly a court action – is what is called REVERSE FOI SUIT. What is a REVERSE FOI SUIT? Reverse Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit arise when a person requests that information held on him/her by a federal agency should not be released. The person does this by going to court to block an anticipated release by the agency.
“The jurisprudence on REVERSE FOI SUIT has not really changed since the US Supreme Court decision in Chrysler Corp. v. Brown (1979) 441 U.S. 281. Though the court held “that there is nothing in FOIA which authorizes a person to file a reverse FOIA suit”, but it also went ahead and held “that review by the courts was available under Section 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 702et seq. (1976).”
“Drawing from Chrysler’s, I don’t see how BAT can block records which form part of the mandatory provisions of the US FOI Act – those records that must be released. Or even the records which fall under the exemption provisions of the FOI Act – that’s records that can’t be released except on the ground of public interest.”
In a similar vein, Nigerian investigative journalist, David Hundeyin, one of the two persons who instituted the FOI request to release Tinubu’s files with the FBI, CIA and other American agencies has also asserted that the move by the President’s US lawyers was in connection with the Supreme Court appeal by Atiku Abubakar.
Also using his X handle, the journalist decried the move to block the release of the FBI documents on Tinubu as “boring.”
“The idea behind Christopher Carmichael (Tinubu’s lawyer) applying to insert himself into an FOIA case that doesn’t concern him is to delay the release of the FBI documents until after the Supreme Court judgment.
“I know it, we know it, they know it, everyone knows it.”