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$460,000 Drugs Forfeiture to US Govt : You Lacks Right To Contest My Victory — Tinubu fires back at Peter Obi 

“This honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to enforce the purported decision of the US district court as sought and alleged under by the petition, the said decision having not been registered in any trial court or domesticated in any court in Nigeria.”

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$460,000 Drugs Forfeiture to US Govt : You Lacks Right To Contest My Victory — Tinubu fires back at Peter Obi 

 

 

The President-elect, Bola Tinubu, yesterday, told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) it lacked necessary jurisdiction to enforce a purported decision of a United States District court that ordered the forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 in some US bank accounts linked to him in 1993.

 

 

Tinubu, who stated this in his response to the petition filed by the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against his victory at the February 25 presidential election, further hinged his argument on the fact that the said US court order was never registered in any Nigerian court.

 

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This is as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, joined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in calling for the dismissal of the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.

 

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The party, in a Preliminary Objection to the petition, also claimed that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on the petition on the grounds that it lacked necessary facts or particulars as required by law.

 

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At the same time, some representatives of Tinubu, yesterday, told a cross-section of journalists in the United States that the claim in some quarters that the 2023 general election was the “worst” in Nigeria’s political history was totally unfounded.

 

Obi and LP had in their petition argued that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the presidential election, owing to the forfeiture of the said funds in accounts linked to him and as such be disqualified and all votes accrued to him in the election be declared as wasted votes.

 

But in the reply filed on his behalf and the Vice President-elect by their team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu amongst others argued that the decision of the US District Court could not be enforced since it was neither registered nor domesticated in any court in Nigeria.

 

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While pointing out that the judgment delivered on October 4, 1993, was not rendered by a court or tribunal created pursuant to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution, he claimed that the decision “was not in respect of any cause of action or offence created by an Act of the National Assembly or law of a state, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law in Nigeria or written law in Nigeria.

 

 

“This honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to enforce the purported decision of the US district court as sought and alleged under by the petition, the said decision having not been registered in any trial court or domesticated in any court in Nigeria.”

 

Besides, the second and third respondents, argued that Tinubu was not a party or defendant in the said case No 93C-4483.

 

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“The 2nd respondent was/is not one of the listed parties in the decision of the United States district court in case No 93C-4483 delivered on October 4, 1993 as reproduced in paragraph 28 of the petition.

 

In addition, Tinubu said the petitioners did not disclose a reasonable cause of action cognizable under Sections 131, 134 and 137 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

 

The respondents pointed out that the case of the petitioners as pleaded has not disclosed any disqualifying factor as prescribed by Section 137 in that Tinubu was not under death sentence imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or any jurisdiction at all.

 

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“The 2nd respondent is not currently under a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria.”

 

In addition, it is the case of Tinubu and Shettima that the case not presented within a period of less than 10 years before the date of the election as stipulated by the Constitution adversely affected their case.

 

Besides, the respondents argued that the case was not a case of criminal forfeiture cognizant under 18 USC 982, which deals with criminal forfeiture, but rather a civil case for civil forfeiture under 18 USC 981, which the US instituted as a civil plaintiff against identified properties (not persons) as defendants.

 

Tinubu also argued that the final orders of judge John Nordberg were made pursuant to a settlement agreement (in the mold of a consent judgment) under the court’s civil jurisdiction in 18 USC 981.

Tinubu and Peter Obi
Tinubu and Peter Obi

 

In asking the court to dismiss the petition they submitted, he argued that the grounds contained therein and all the pleadings in support of same were academic and unable to confer any benefit on the petitioners.

 

Responding to the request for disqualification of Tinubu on account of alleged unlawful nomination of his running mate, the respondents submitted that the petitioners not being members of the APC lacked the locus standi to query the nomination of candidates on the platform of the APC.

 

In addition, they said the case of Obi and LP has become statute barred, having failed to challenge the said nomination of the second respondent within 14 days of the date and events specifically pleaded in the petition.

 

“All issues which relates to Tinubu and Shettima qualification are pre-election issues in respect of which the Court of Appeal, sitting as the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to entertain.

 

“Allegation of double nomination of an associate/running mate as made in the petition is not a cognizable basis for disqualification of the winner of a presidential election under the 1999 Constitution,” they submitted.

 

APC Joins INEC, Urges Tribunal to Dismiss Atiku, PDP’s Petitions

 

 

 

In its reply to the petition by Atiku and PDP, the APC through its lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, submitted that the “petitioners’ paragraph 146 in support of Ground 4 on non-qualification is vague, bare and meaningless as having the constitutional threshold is not part of the requirement to contest an election.”

 

On the issue of non-compliance, the APC argued that the failure of the petitioners to plead with specificity the particulars in terms of names, codes and/or polling units where the alleged malpractices, non-compliance, irregularities, took place is a fundamental violation of the Electoral Act, 2022, which fact renders the petition incompetent and an abuse of court process.

 

“Petition as presently constituted is devoid of necessary particulars/information to support allegation of corrupt practices, violence and non – compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act. The petition discloses no reasonable cause of action, having regard to the paucity of the facts pleaded to be relied upon in proof of each of the 4 grounds on which the petition is premised,” the APC submitted.

 

On the controversy surrounding the deployment of the Bi-modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Result Viewing Portal (iRev), the APC observed that there was no provision in the operative law governing the conduct of elections in Nigeria that made it mandatory for presiding officers to electronically transmit/transfer results from the polling units directly to INEC’s collation system.

 

It added also that there was no provision that made it mandatory for the presiding officer to use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the Form EC8A to the iRev in real time, insisting too that Tinubu needed not obtain 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT to be declared winner of the election.

 

The party subsequently urged the tribunal to dismiss Atiku and PDP’s petitions for being incompetent and lacking merit.

 

In its earlier reply to the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi’s petition, the APC had Monday urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for being a waste of court’s precious time.

 

While Obi and LP in their petition had on the one hand prayed the tribunal to nullify Tinubu’s election on the grounds of alleged irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws, they had on the other sought Tinubu’s disqualification following alleged conviction and forfeiture in the United States.

 

Obi and LP had insisted that Tinubu, “at the time of the election not qualified to contest for election to the office of President as he was fined the sum of $460,000.00 (Four-Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars) for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483”.

 

But the APC in its response to Obi and LP, denied the allegation, stating that Tinubu “was never at any point in time fined the sum of $460,000.00 (Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand Dollars) for an offence involving dishonesty or any other offence in: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA —- PLAINTIFF V. FUNDS IN ACCOUNT 263226700 held by FIRST HERITAGE BANK IN THE NAME OF BOLA TINUBU, Funds in accounts 39483134, 39483396, 4650279566, 00400220, 39936404, 39936383 HELD BY CITI BANK.

 

The APC submitted further that Tinubu was never made a party in the said Case No: 93C4483 between UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. FUNDS IN ACCOUNT 263226700 held by FIRST HERITAGE BANK IN THE NAME OF BOLA TINUBU & 2 ORS.

 

“The said Case No: 93C4483 between United States of America v. Fund in Account 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu is not a criminal case/matter that could have resulted in a criminal conviction. Rather, it was a civil forfeiture proceeding against the funds in various accounts opened in the name of Bola Tinubu with First Heritage Bank, and City Bank N.A.

 

“The purported decision of the United State District Court Northern district of Illinois, Eastern division in the said case is not a fine but 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 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 was preceded by express admission on record that 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,” the party claimed.

 

Arguing further, the APC asserted that as far back as February 2003, it was a matter of public record and common knowledge that, the Federal Government of Nigeria, vide the office of Inspector General of Police, inquired from the Government of United States of America about the criminal record or law enforcement interest of any sort in their jurisdiction regarding the 2nd Respondent through the American Consulate in Nigeria.

 

According to the APC, the outcome of the inquiry yielded a clean bill of health that unequivocally and unreservedly cleared Tinubu of any criminal record, interest or association in the United States of America as of February 4, 2003.

 

Besides, the Respondent stated that the “impleaded decision of the US court 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 scandalise, demonise and de-market him to the Nigerian electorate at the February 25, 2023 general election with a view to delegitimising 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 October 4, 1993, a period of 29 years before the February 25, 2023, when the said presidential election was duly conducted by the 1st Respondent,” it explained.

 

 

In addition, the APC observed that 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 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 law of competent jurisdiction or Tribunal in Nigeria.

 

“The order made by the American Court was an order of forfeiture of funds in some named accounts as opposed to a fine, which may be disqualifying ground/factor to run/contest for the office of president under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that there is a world of difference between fine and forfeiture as both terms connote different things,” it said.

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