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BREAKING: Sorry, you can’t contest 2023 election, Atiku tells Tinubu

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The cumulative effect of the verdict of the Northern District Court of Illinois, in the US causing the forfeiture of the $460,000 belonging to Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as proceeds of narcotics and money laundering, which are serious crimes in Nigeria, is that he cannot contest the 2023 election, because he is already tainted with the grave consequences.

These were the conclusions of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as he weighed in on the issue on Thursday, even while the camp of the former Governor of Lagos State, dismissed the matter as a “storm in the teacup, without anything to it.

Just as Tinubu, spoke through Festus Keyamo, the Director General of the All Progressives Presidential Congress Campaign Council (APC-PCC), Atiku, conveyed his position through Danie Bwala, spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PDP-PCC).

Emphasising, while appearing on Politics Today, a Channels Television current affairs programme, Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had asserted on Wednesday, that the $460,000 which Tinubu was made to forfeit to US authorities was tax deductibles that should ordinarily accrue to the government.

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His words: “These processes are mere presumptions. They found money in his (Tinubu) accounts and they said he needed to come forward. In that affidavit of Kevin Moss, they said they interviewed Mobil and Mobil said this man is a treasurer in Mobil. Mobil said the funds are not for them.

“They confirmed his status not as a criminal but as a respected employee of Mobil. It is in that affidavit. After all the rigamarole trying to find out whether the accounts where the money came from are linked to drugs, they came to the conclusion that the deposits he made — what these bankers called investments — they said he had not paid tax on these interests. That is all. Look at paragraph 38. They said it is tax. They took what belonged to them. They even begged Tinubu not to return. Just allow us take what belongs to us and go. They were begging him. It was not punishment, it was no indictment, it was just forfeiture.”

“The deposits he made there (in banks) were what bankers call investments. He kept the money there and he was getting interests. They (US government) said he had not paid tax on those interests. That is all and guess what? The banks are supposed to deduct the tax from source.

“Out of the 10 accounts, it was only one account – the one in Heritage Bank – that they took $460,000 as tax on interest that he benefited on the investment he made in those accounts. In fact, all the money in Heritage Bank was not taken; they took only $460,000 as tax.”

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But in a quick riposte on Thursday on the same programme, Bwala, though acknowledging that there was actually no conviction, because Tinubu took advantage of a provision in the US laws not to contest the forfeiture, the further implication did not absolve him of the criminal taint.

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Disclosing the interest of the PDP in the matter, he said, it was important that people like Keyamo, were not allowed to deceive Nigerians, hence the need for the party to join issues, distill facts and reel out the truth on the issue, adding that many of the perspectives the APC spokesman gave on Wednesday, were false.

First, dismissing the issue of timeliness, he said it did not matter whether the incident took place hundred years ago, they must be raised each time Tinubu put himself out for public office, as Nigerians needed to know the full details of the full background of the man angling to lead them.

Hear him: “If you’re vying for a public office, you must be willing to be scrutinised. The reason is that the man who would be President of Nigeria – that’s why they have security vetting – must be somebody that the nation must have an idea of his life from when he started to where he is today, so that he doesn’t become an object of blackmail or national security threat. So, the fact that it happened after 30 years is a non issue.”

He also dismissed the argument that under statute of limitation, the matter could not be raised in Nigeria because it was handled in a foreign land, saying it held no water, adding that money laundering and dealing with narcotics were criminal offences both in the US and Nigeria, adding that the reason why Tinubu escaped conviction and punishment, was because he co-operated with the prosecutor’s offer that the matter should not go to court under the Non Conviction Based Recovery.

He explained: The way they operate, if they want to prosecute you on a crime that investigation suggests that they are going to spend a lot of money and whatever the crime they’re targeting, they may not be able to get the whole of it before the end of the trial, but because, the idea is to recover as fast as possible the proceeds of crime, they now apply the forfeiture proceedings.

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“Forfeiture is a civil proceeding, yes, it is not a criminal proceeding, but the elements argued before the civil courts, are elements of crime. It is just the proceeding that is civil, but the procedure upon which the prosecutor would convince the judge that these assets are proceeds of crime, are criminal elements. Yes, Tinubu was indicted, but was he convicted criminally, the answer is no.

“Under Non Conviction Based Recovery, there are three types of pleas. There is a plea of guilt, there is not guilty and there is no contest. If Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the time had decided to contest it, if it went into trial and the elements were proven, it might lead to his prosecution. What most defendants do in the US is that they don’t want a situation in which they would be further exposed. So, they can afford to let go of the assets. That’s why they enter what they call non-contest. What it means is that I’m not guilty, but I’m also not contesting it, so whatever you see, you carry.

“Nigerians must know, it is the moral issue that the nation is confronted by. Somebody who has not denied, but has in fact, co-operated with the government of the US about the proceeds of crime traceable to his account, with three documents, an affidavit setting out the facts and what the prosecutor was setting out to achieve, a verdict, the finding of court, based on the affidavit, which established a probable cause under the relevant laws that those assets that they were seizing were actually proceeds of crime.

“Once that is done, the judge must say that the defendants must be put on notice. Who are the defendants. If you look at that proof of service, which is another document, you’ll see United States of America as plaintiff and Bola Tinubu as the defendant. The owner of that account and the account are like two Siamese twins. Does account number come to court. The owners of the account come to court and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, did not contest. He in fact co-operated. This is why he cannot separate himself.”

Again, dismissing Keyamo’s further argument that forfeiture did not amount to punishment, he countered by saying that anything that rightly belonged to someone, but being forfeited in that manner, was clear punishment. “Why are you forfeiting it? Because investigation proves a link between you and that item and that that item is linked to narcotics. So, narcotics and money laundering are criminal offences,” he said.

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Questioning the issues further, he said, Keyamo, who prided himself as a prosecutor, should have told Nigerians how much Tinubu was earning at the time to have such amount in his account, if it was actually not the proceeds of money laundering and narcotics. “How much was Tinubu earning. How much was his salary. Even if you multiplied it with a number of years, the prosecutor would say, is it enough to have that large sum of money in your account?

“For the Nigerian people, the issue is not just about the source of the money, yes, the source is important, but for the Nigerian people, there is still a cloud about drug-related offences and drug-related activities with somebody who wants to be the number one citizen of the country. I tell you why. This idea of drug and narcotics is a terrible thing all over the world. If somebody has that questionable character as a President, it will embolden people who are into those activities. That is why the person has to come out clean.”

Bwala, also reminded Keyamo, that he had not reversed his conclusion on Tinubu presenting a dubious certificate with which he contested elections as a governor, adding that even though the court dismissed the matter because on technical ground, the APC spokesman, had failed to tell Nigerians that those conclusions he made on the certificate case, were now false.

On the argument that his link to the matter was like a director appearing in a case to defend his company, Keyamo, must be reminded the APC spokesman that Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was convicted by the court and ordered to be sent to prison, not because he actually committed the offence directly, but because he was the alter ego of the anti-graft agency, saying it was in the same manner, Tinubu should take responsibility for the money found in the account.

In all he said: “I’m afraid that the conclusion of this case is that from the eyes of the law, especially if you look at the constitutional provisions beside it, Bola may be disqualified from contesting if that matter goes to court. Narcotics an money laundering, whether in America or in Nigeria, is a criminal offence.”

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BREAKING: Don’t disturb him! Court stops G-27 from moving against Fubara

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Siminialaye Fubara, Governor of Rivers State, on Monday, secured a fresh order against the 27 members of the state House of Assembly, this time, restraining them from making any impeachment move against him, another chapter in the ongoing political crisis in the state.

Justice D. Jumbo Stephens, in the fresh order, via ex-parte motion, restrained the Chief Judge of Rivers State and the Clerk of Rivers State House of Assembly from having any dealing with the 27 lawmakers led by Martins Amaewhule.

The motion, which originated from suit No PHC/2177/CS/2024 filed by the Attorney-General of Rivers State and the state Fubara, listed the first set of defendants as Amaewhule and 26 other lawmakers and Rt. Hon. Victor Oko-Jumbo, Sokari Goodboy Sokari, Orubienimigha Adolphus Timothy, Chief Judge of Rivers State, the Clerk Rivers State House of Assembly, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as 28 to 33 defendants.

The court said: “That an order of interim injunction is hereby made restraining the 31st and 32nd defendants from dealing or howsoever relating with the 1st to 27 defendants as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and from receiving, forwarding or howsoever acting on any resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other documents or communication from the 1st to 27 defend pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction already filed herein.

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“The parties to this suit are hereby directed to maintain the status quo ante litem in this suit as of 5th July 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

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The court, while also ordering substituted service of the originating and other processes in the suit on the 1st to 30th defendants by pasting the same at the gate of the Rivers State House of Assembly quarters located along the Aba Road, adjourned to July 15th for the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

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BREAKING: PDP speaks on Ighodalo’s fate! *No shaking, no cause for alarm!

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“Let it be on record that the candidature of Dr Asue Ighodalo as the flag bearer of the party for the 2024 elections remains intact and that the judgement of the Federal High court in Abuja did not in any way affect the candidature of Dr Asue Ighodalo,” were the exact words with which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), clapped back at the verdict of a Federal High Court in Abuja, nullifying its candidate for the September governorship election in Edo State.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, had earlier on Thursday morning, in a judgment, over a petition filed by Kelvin Mohammed, Gabriel Okoduwa and Ederaho Osagie, on behalf of others in 12 local government areas and 127 wards, of the state, held that the PDP’s primary held on February 22 failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022; the guidelines for the conduct of the poll and the party’s constitution.

But Tony Aziegbemi, Chairman of the party in the state, while blaming what he described as certain elements that were spreading rumours about its candidate, and who were scared of Ighodalo’s popularity for the situation, maintained that there was no cause for alarm, as the party would eventually prevail.

“The PDP is aware that certain elements who are scared of the soaring popularity of our candidate Dr Asue Ighodalo are going about peddling rumours that the candidature of Dr Asue Ighodalo has been nullified. We urge our teaming loyal supporters to remain calm and resolute as there is no cause for alarm.”

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Group to Wike’s lawmakers: Denying your defectction to APC a joke  

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The Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition (RSEYLC), on Tuesday, laughed off the claims by 27 lawmakers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), who are claiming that they are still members of their original platform.

The lawmakers, all loyal to Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, are fighting hard through the courts where the case is now sitting and other areas, to save their jobs after their seats were declared vacant by the camp of the Rivers State Governor, Sim Fubara.

Part of their defence, is a recant of their declaration, last year that they had all defected to the APC, in one of their sittings, where they were seeing displaying the symbols of the ruling party at the national level, even though they were elected on the PDP platform among other steps they took to emphasise their new status.

But, SEYLC, in a statement by Legborsi Yamaabana its Chairman in Port Harcourt, carpeted the group fo denying their defection, insisting the only option for them, having lost their seats and legitimacy as mandated by Section 109 (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was for them to contest a fresh election and test their popularity.

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The statement, read: “The Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition, RSEYLC, is appalled by the audacity and shamelessness of the 27 ex-members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who, having defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), now have the gall to deny their defection. These individuals, who owe their positions to the PDP, have lost their seats and legitimacy as mandated by Section 109(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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“Yet, in a brazen display of dishonesty, they now falsely claim to have secured a court judgment asserting their continued membership in the PDP. However, the Attorney General of Rivers State has countered that the suit in which they claim to have obtained a judgment was struck out for want of locus standi and jurisdiction, as well as for being an abuse of court process.

“Such blatant deceit and double-speak are not only disgraceful but also an insult to the intelligence of the people of Rivers State. The RSEYLC, speaking for the discerning and justice-loving youth of Rivers State, is utterly ashamed of these discredited politicians. Their actions are a stain on our democratic values and an affront to all who believe in truth and justice. We urge all who value integrity and good governance to join us in condemning these actions in the strongest terms.

“The people of Rivers State deserve leaders who are honest and committed to serving their constituents, not self-serving opportunists who think they can fool us with their dishonorable antics. Rivers Youths will continue to stand firm against political deceit and corruption, advocating for the integrity and development of our great state.”

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