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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
BREAKING: Finally, Aiyedatiwa takes charge in Ondo *Presides over Exco meeting
Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Deputy Governor would on Thursday morning preside over the State Executive Council (SEC) meeting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, for the first time in the last three months since the return of Rotimi Akeredolu, the state Governor from Germany, where he spent three months on medical tourism.
In what seems a new turn in the peace process being sought in the political climate in the state, which saw the warring camps of Akeredolu, who has stayed back in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital since his return September this year, making their case before President Bola Tinubu at the weekend, could become the panacea for eventual calm.
Aiyedatiwa, who only barely survived impeachment by members of the state House of Assembly, who accused him of using funds meant for the state’s share of the petroleum subsidy released by the Federal Government to purchase his official vehicle, an act termed as gross misconduct, has been insisting on taking charge as Acting Governor,
Despite the intervention of Tinubu, who ordered that the status quo be maintained, meaning that neither Akeredolu nor Aiyedatiwa should lose their job, the insistence of the deputy governor that he must be declared the Acting Governor, given the inability of his boss to preside over the affairs of the governance of the state due to his absence, had created tensions in the state.
Allowing the deputy governor preside over the meeting, could be a way of pacifying him and persuading him and his supporters and saving the state from plunging into full scale political conflagration, in a state known for its volatile nature, which had in the past political history of the South West, led in some of the serious upheavals.
The Nation, reports that regardless of the latest development, some elite are kicking against the resolution at the meeting presided over by Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, where the deputy governor, was reportedly mandated to submit an undated letter of resignation, apparently to whip him into line.
Concerned Elite of Ondo State, led by Olanrewaju Akeredolu, was said to have faulted the resolution that Aiyedatiwa should sign a post-dated letter of resignation, which was read on the floor of the House of Assembly by Speaker Olamide Oladiji, saying that Tinubu could not have given an order that contradicted the letter and spirit of the constitution.
It also, while chiding the Speaker over his alleged action, also accused him of twisting facts to suit a certain interest by asserting that there was no agreement to transfer power to Aiyedatiwa, arguing that it was unconstitutional to ask unelected political office holders to monitor elected official
The paper, which quoted Commissioner for Information and Orientation Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, as confirming that the scheduled meeting, would be presided over by Aiyedatiwa as “vice chairman,” said he did not confirm whether the deputy governor had returned to the state from Abuja, where he had been holing up since his impeachment saga began few weeks ago.
“Exco meeting will be held about three months after the last meeting was held in Ibadan, presided over by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, when he returned from medical vacation in September. The exco meeting that will be held on Thursday shows that everyone is sticking with the resolution reached with Tinubu. All that we are focused on is the development of Ondo State, and that should be paramount in the minds of all of us at the moment,” a source was quoted as saying.
Ondo truce collapses! *Aiyedatiwa insists on A’gov *Says, Tinubu can’t dictate for me
The intervention in the crisis rocking Ondo State over the health condition of its Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, seems not to be abating despite the intervention of President Bola Tinubu, who was said to have ordered parties in the dispute to maintain the status quo.
The Nation is reporting that despite the truce reportedly reached after the intervention of the President, the camp of the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa is still digging in on the ground that the President would not dictate to it on what should happen in the state, adding tension was already high in Ondo as lawmakers in the state House of Assembly ahead of its first plenary on Tuesday, November 28, after the meeting with the President.
Aiyedatiwa, who said to have interpreted the the resolution reached at the meeting held at the Presidency over the weekend, was for him to be declared acting governor, is said to be insisting that the outcome must subsist, while the Akeredolu camp has pointed to plots to ambush the governor and declare Aiyedatiwa acting governor against the agreement.
INEC has reached a dead-end, now a danger to Nigerian democracy – Nwankwo
On Monday, Clement Nwankwo, foremost Nigerian constitutional lawyer and Founding Convener of the Civil Society Monitoring Situation Room, was a guest of Prime Time, a current affairs programme on Arise News Television. There, he painted the picture of the stark reality of Nigeria’s parlous electoral system.
Using the outcomes of the offseason elections that took place in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo States, to assess the situation, the human rights activists, came to the conclusion that the nation’s electoral process has come to a dead-end and therefore could not carry it beyond this stage, not to talk about the general election in 2027. What would result would not be elections, but chaos. Excerpts:
What is your verdict on the offseason elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo?
The Situation Room has issued a statement on these elections. The verdict is unequivocal, which is it was a huge disappointment. We had thought that given the disappointments in the 2023 general elections that there would been some efforts by INEC to do a better job, but apparently, this is a worse job and for some of us it is extremely sad to see elections conducted this way in this country.
It brings to question how this democracy will continue and how this democracy will thrive if we cannot give citizens the option of deciding who rules them. The electoral system in this country has collapsed and we have to go back to the drawing board. Certainly we cannot build anything to what is now. The system has been captured and it is delivering incredibly sad results, not in terms of who wins or who doesn’t win, but in terms of the process, in terms of the abuses of the process, in terms of citizens’ lack of confidence in elections as a way of running a referendum on those who have ruled them or given a chance for people to take over.
The country has lost its electoral system and we certainly can only revive it if citizens ask the right questions and make the demands that should be made. When you look at the elections and look at the facts before the elections, those who were given responsibilities for the running of the elections, have been seen to be people who have been compromised, where partisan political elements have been appointed into the electoral commission, where half of the electoral commission and officials of the electoral commission have basically allocated themselves to serve political interests, then I think where we are today is a very sad one and this country’s democracy cannot go any further with the kind of election administration system that we have in place today.
But what do you think are responsible? Is it about bread and butter, poverty, corruption, violence, what are the specifics at the heart of this election?
Certainly, bread and butter issues relate to who can halt the slide in which the country is descending into. Certainly when you look at people’s condition, you see a worse trend previously and it doesn’t look like there is anything in the horizon that promises a break from the fall. So, I think for people, it is a major issue. But beyond that is that those who are seeking political power are taking advantage of the huge poverty that has descended on the land and now basically taking advantage of the situation – buying elections, paying people off to vote for them – vote-buying is at an unmitigated proportion. So, it’s like people struggle so hard to purchase the election. They struggle so hard to purchase the election. They struggle so hard when they purchase the election, to use the proceeds of being in office to buy the next election.
So, in my view, is that perhaps we’ve come to a dead-end with the present electoral system and we must ask ourselves what lies ahead.
Is it then a question of incumbency powers because the incumbents won in all the states?
The incumbents won in all the three states which is really not unexpected in normal electoral system, but we don’t have evidence that people voted freely. You set up a process, you decide that people go to vote, you decide election results are calculated, are tabulated, collated at the polling units and then escalated to the different levels of collation, you expect that at the immediate primary unit, you have the polling unit, that immediately the results are counted, the result sheets are uploaded and people can see that real-time. But in this election, we saw results being ready before the election.
We are doing analysis of what has been uploaded and there is a huge discrepancy in what has been uploaded to the IReV. The whole idea of the IReV is that the IReV was supposed to be real-life uploading of results. But now, there is a huge question about the efficiency of the IReV. It is now a tool to upload whatever you feel – not real-time, not real results. So, there is a major question of where we are with elections in this country.
It’s amazing when politicians who are supposed to protect the integrity of these elections and the values of this country, have become the ones who have infiltrated this country and have decimated every institution in it, not the least the ones that have to do with elections. Is that an exaggeration or a fair assessment of how things are?
It’s certainly not an exaggeration. You can see that with what has played out in the elections, you can see that in what has played out with the reports of the election observers. The media, thankfully have been very beautiful in putting out these reports in real time. Everything sacred have been desecrated by the politicians and those given responsibility to uphold their sacredness.
That is the point that I make. If all of these institutions, if the politicians have found a way of manipulating it, if so much fund is taken out of the public treasury to buy election results – and that’s why you’ll see an incumbent would win because they have access to unparalleled resources – whether an incumbent from an opposition party, an incumbent from the ruling party, it’s the same trait.
So how can Nigeria get out of this explosion of irregularities, corruption and violence in elections?
I think in 2007 when an incredibly horrible election was conducted in this country, when President Yar’Adua of blessed memory came into office, he came into office and said, I’m really sorry Nigerians, this election result that brought me into office, lack credibility, now let us see how we can pull ourselves from where we were. That was how the election reform committee was set up, headed by Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais, which had so many members including Prof. Attahiru Jega, who later became the chairman of the electoral commission.
That President understood what went wrong, admitted it and called people to a conversation. So, that was one way and I think that we in the civil society, we are citizens of this country, we must raise our voices to say that these electoral system has collapsed. We can’t trust those you have appointed into office. You have appointed your political acolytes and put them into the management of elections. So, we don’t trust the electoral system anymore. We don’t trust the officials, we don’t trust the commission and we don’t trust that this process will help us save our democracy.
To save this democracy, this administration must come to the realization that citizens have no more confidence.
But do you detect the will in President Bola Tinubu towards cleaning up the electoral process? If he does, can he or anyone fix such an overwhelmingly corrupt system?
There were recent nominations of state Resident Electoral Commissioners. And these were approved within a few minutes by the plenary at the National Assembly. Now, those nominations, several of them should never have been made because of the political taints of some of those who were in that list. For me, that’s a very sad signal.
But whether the administration likes it or not, whether the President likes it or not, I think it is important that he listens to what Nigerians are saying, which is that this system has failed. If this system has failed and you still have a couple of offseason elections, about four or five, leading up to 2027, it is only going to get worse and in 2027, I don’t know whether it can be called elections. It certainly won’t be if this trajectory continues.
At that stage, it will become clear even to the President that this country’s democracy is on its tatters and will drop and collapse, because certainly what we have today, cannot take us to the next general elections.
So, outside the Justice Uwais recommendations, what other steps do you recommend to maintain the sanctity of the elections?
I think there have been several recommendations made. One is with the electoral commission itself. I think what we have today as electoral commission needs to be set aside in a legal way. The National Assembly needs to be brought into this conversation and the President needs to go back to several of the reports and set up a committee that has people, stakeholders who will sit down and decide which aspects of these recommendations need now to be implemented.
The most important is the method of the appointment of the election management team. I think we have to go back to the drawing board to start this process. I do not think that the electoral management team as it exists today can take this country to the next election. By this I mean INEC. We need to have a new system that creates a new electoral commission, that creates a new election management team and follows the process that has been outlined in various recommendations that have been made, especially in the Uwais Committee reports that have indicated how you can appoint the INEC chairman, how you can appoint INEC National Commissioners.
Indeed, we have to back to the question of whether indeed we need Resident Electoral Commissioners, because when governors send names of nominees to be appointed RECs or where political parties send names, what it does is destroy the system. That’s why you have the Resident Electoral Commissioner acting with arbitrariness without responsibility and without accountability.
We have to do this even before the next off-circle elections. Certainly we can’t go on with this king of electoral management body and we can’t go on with this kind of abused electoral process. This democracy will collapse very soon if we don’t check the type of electoral management system we have in this country, because citizens have lost faith totally in elections in this country.
But are those policies in themselves going to be enough or will government have to go back to social policies, because we know that corruption and electoral malpractices thrive when there is poverty?
But you know you cannot solve poverty quite quickly but you can fix the election system quite quickly. When people understand that they can vote without the process being abused, then you begin to see better electoral officials respond to citizens’ demands. But if you blame the abuses entirely on citizens and refuse to do what we need to do in terms of policy changes, in terms of legal changes in terms of constitutional changes, then we would have to pray that this democracy survives.
What optimistic note can you sound from your observation and analysis of this election?
I think it is difficult to be very optimistic about this election. I think what surprised a few people even though there was a low turnout, what surprised quite a lot of people is that the turnout was as much as it was even though it was low, which means that citizens still have some interest. There are still people saying, look, we could still have confidence in elections if we fix it. So, in some ways, people have not totally given up on the electoral system. But it won’t go on for too long. In fact, it won’t go on till 2027. It won’t.
These points that you made, which are very poignant, which are very important and very pointed remarks, were they incorporated in the situation room report in stark terms?
It is incorporated in very stark terms. The Situation Room report today during a press conference addressed by the Convener Yinousa Y’Au, which basically made the point that these elections represent a huge disappointment and this country cannot continue on this trajectory. That’s very clear.
December 3, 2023 2:21 pm
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