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Why Tinubu forfeited $460,000 to US – APC *Obi’s claim baseless *He’s not LP candidate

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Again, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has stated that the $460,000 Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu forfeited to the US government in 1993, was not the proceeds of heroine trafficking, but a mere civil case arising from financial transaction in the country’s banking system.

The forfeiture of the hefty amount, had formed part of the major legs of the petition launched by Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in asking the Court of Appeal, sitting as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), for the February 25 polls default to disqualify Tinubu, who was announced the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In its reply to the petition before the court, the APC, explained that Tinubu merely surrendered the funds in 10 bank accounts that were opened in either his name or that of Compass Finance and Investment Co, adding that funds in the said accounts, which were domiciled in both First Heritage Bank and Citi Bank N. A, were subject to a “civil forfeiture proceeding” in Case No: 93C4483.

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  to the United State pursuant to the settlement of claim by the parties to the case, the APC maintained, adding: “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.

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“The compromise terms that led to the forfeiture were preceded by express admission on record that the 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.”

It listed the 10 account numbers that contained funds that Tinubu forfeited after the settlement of claim by parties involved in the case, as: 263226700, 39483134, 39483396, 4650279566, 00400220, 39936404, 39936383, 52050-89451952, 52050-89451952 and 52050-89451953.

Besides, the APC, through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that the Federal Government had as far back as 2003, through the American Consulate in Nigeria, inquired about Tinubu’s criminal record.

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It said the outcome of the inquiry which FG made through the Inspector-General of Police, “yielded a clean bill of health that unequivocally and unreservedly cleared 2nd Respondent of any criminal record, interest or association in the United States of America”.

“The formal clearance report dated February 4, 2003, under the hand of Legal attaché to the United States Embassy, Nigeria in response to the inquiry by the Inspector General of Police is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon for its full effect; particularly the portion in the second paragraph which states-

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‘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 centralized information center that maintains the records of every arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.’

APC said it would apply for a subpoena to be issued again at the IGP to enable him to adduce and tender in evidence, the letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, which triggered the clearance letter of the Legal attaché of the US Embassy in Nigeria, as well as the response to same dated 4th February 2003.

It further argued that the said forfeiture Tinubu made to the US government, having lasted a period of 29 years, was no longer a valid ground to challenge his eligibility to contest the presidential election.

“The Respondent states that, in any event, the impleaded decision of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division 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 scandalize, demonize and de-market him to the Nigerian electorate at the 25th February 2023 general election with a view to delegitimizing 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.

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“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 the 4th day of October 1993, a period of 29 years before the 25th day of February 2023 when the said presidential election was duly conducted by the 1st Respondent.

“The Respondent avers that the allegations referred to in the said paragraph have been subjecting to litigation and duly litigated upon by a court of competent jurisdiction in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.

“The Respondent further avers that having been litigated upon by a competent court of law, this Honorable Court is estopped from retrying the same issues that have been appealed against. The Respondent shall found and rely upon the judgment in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.

“Without prejudice to the above, the Respondent avers that the Nigeria Police Force investigated the 2nd Respondent regarding any record of criminal arrest and/or conviction. The investigation was extensive and far-reaching.

“Consequently, the American Consulate, Lagos Nigeria revealed that there was no record whatsoever of any criminal arrest, warrants and/or conviction regarding the 2nd Respondent. The Respondent shall find and rely on the letter issued by the Embassy of the United States of America, Nigeria dated 4th February 2003.

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“Furthermore, 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 a 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 the law of competent jurisdiction or Tribunal in Nigeria,” it added.

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While urging the court to strike out petitions against Tinubu, the APC argued that Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who alleged that Tinubu was convicted for a drug-related case, lacked the requisite locus standi to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.

Insisting that Obi was not validly nominated by the LP, the APC, stressed that he was not a member of the party, at least 30 days before it conducted its presidential primary election.

It told the court that Obi was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, till May 24 2022, adding that he was screened as a presidential aspirant of the party in April, 2022.

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APC further averred that whereas Obi joined the LP on May 27, he was subsequently declared the winner of the presidential primary election the LP held on May 30, 2022.

“By section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the 2nd Petitioner (LP) is mandated to have submitted its comprehensive register of members to the 1st Respondent 30 days before its presidential primary.

“That is to say the said register of members must have been submitted to the 1st Respondent on or before 30th April, 2022.

“The 1st Petitioner (Obi) as at 30th April, 2022 was still a member of the PDP and his name was not and could not have been in the register of members submitted by the 2nd Petitioner to 1st Respondent (INEC).

“The Petition herein is incompetent as the 1st Petitioner is not a member of the 2nd Petitioner since the 1st Petitioner’s name is not, and could have been listed in the list of the register made available by the 2nd Petitioner to the 1st Respondent, same having been made available before the 1st Petitioner joined the 2nd Petitioner”.

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It, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss or strike out Obi’s petition “wholly or in part as may be appropriate”.

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BREAKING: One week after US Congress threat, Court frees, Binance boss

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Exactly one week after the US Congress, moved against Nigeria, Tigran Gambaryan, Head of Financial Crime Compliance of Binance, was let off the hook on Friday, as the Federal Government, dropped charges against him, with a Federal High Court in Abuja, discharging him on the four-count charge of financial crimes.

Sixteen members of the US Congress, had last week, written a letter of protest to President Joe Biden, demanding his intervention into the case of Gambaryan, who holds US citizenship, who they said was in danger of losing his life under terrible conditions in detention in Nigeria, while insisting on his immediate release.

The letter had alleged that Gambaryan, “has been wrongfully detained since late February after granting the Nigerian government’s request for discussions regarding the crypto giant’s business in the country. The government of Nigeria took Mr. Gambaryan hostage and thus needs his government’s help to be freed.”

Raising alarm over the state of his health, the group of lawmakers, which said: “Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life. We must act swiftly before it is too late,” had emphasised “on behalf of Mr. Gambaryan, his family, and concerned Americans, we, the undersigned, urgently request and strongly encourage the transfer of his case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.”

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Confirming that the government had dropped the charges against the Binance boss, on Friday, Dare Adekanmbi, spokesman to the FIRS, said: “Please note that the charges are being dropped against the second and the third defendants in the matter,” adding that the accused had been confirmed not to be a decision-maker at the cryptocurrency firm.

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He said in a statement: “We are relieved that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has served and filed amended charges today, resulting in tax charges against Tigran Gambaryan being dropped. Further illustrating that Tigran is not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held in order for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government. We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely.”

Elsewhere in court, the Federal High Court sealed the freedom of the accused, whose ordeal began on February 28, with Justice Emeka Nwite, discharging him of all the charges, bothering on tax evasion charge preferred against the company by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Nwite, in a ruling, discharged and struck out the names of Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, who had since fled Nigeria, after escaping from detention, in March, after Moses Ideho, lawyer to the FIRS, filed a fresh amended charge wherein Binance is listed as sole defendant.

Gambaryan, who was in court during Friday’s proceedings, had stepped into the dock, when Tonye Krukrubo, SAN, who appeared for Binance (1st defendant), then informed the court that the cryptocurrency firm had just appointed a representative in Nigeria in the name of Ayodele Omotilewa.

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Ideho, who confirmed that his office received a notice of appointment of a representative by Binance, also told the court that the notice was dated June 13, 2024, appointing Ayodele Omotilewa as its agent in the country, adding that against the development, an amended four-count charge listing Binance Holdings Limited as sole defendant was filed on June 13 and therefore Omotilewa should be docked to take a plea on behalf of the company.

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But Krukrubo in vehement disagreement argued that the company’s representative was yet to be served with the fresh amended charge, said Omotilewa was only appearing in court for the first time, adding: “I think my learner friend should confirm whether he has served him or not first. We are not there yet. The prosecution has not served us with the amended charges. He ought not to enter the dock. He was appointed for specific purposes, to receive processes. He is one of us; a legal practitioner. The proper thing for the prosecution to do is to address the court on the charge he intended to substitute.

Also arguing in the same direction, C.J. Caleb, who appeared for Gambaryan, argued that law on criminal trial of a corporation did not contemplate that a corporation or its representative should be in the dock, while the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA) Act, particularly Part 47, was very clear on how a trial should proceed in respect of a corporation.

“The Act also specifies all that is required for a representative in criminal trial in Sections 478 , 481, 482 and 483. So I align with my learner colleague that the representative is enough to be in court but does have to be in the dock,” he said.

Ideho, however disagreed, citing Section 481 of ACJA to back his argument, while adding: “If my lord is to look carefully at the provisions of this section and subsection, a representative cannot just sit in the gallery and watch like a spectator how the trial is conducted. He should be in the dock because this is a criminal charge not civil matter.”

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But, Krukrubo while jumping into the matter, argued that there was no where in the section cited by Ideho where it was said that a company’s representative must be in the dock, adding: Section 481 is written in black and white and it does not say that a representative of a corporation must be in dock. What he is saying is not contemplated by ACJA.”

When Nwite directed Ideho to move the latest application, the FIRS, lawyer, said: “We will like to amend and substitute the charge with the earlier one of May 17, 2024, which was our last amended charge my lord,” which neither Krukrubo, nor Caleb, opposed.

Subsequently, Caleb applied that the court should strike out the two earlier charges that listed his client, Gambaryan, as 2nd defendant, dated March 22 and the amended charge dated May 17, adding that Gambaryan should be discharged from the dock and from the proceedings in its entirety.

Nwite, before adjourning the matter to July 12 for pleas, granted the Federal Government’s request for the substitution of the June 13 amended charge for the May 17 one, set aside the earlier order, directing Gambaryan to be served on behalf of the company, and thereafter discharged him from the dock, while ordering parties to file written addresses as to whether Binance representative should be docked or not.

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NLNG signs agreement for new cooking gas vessel

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Shipping and Marine Services Limited (NSML), a subsidiary of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) and Temile Development Company Limited on Tuesday, signed a Vessel Management Agreement (VMA) to provide comprehensive vessel technical management services for the new 23,000 cubic metre LPG vessel, LPG Alfred Temile 10.

At a ceremony in Abuja, NSML’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Abdulkadir Ahmed, and Temile’s Chief Executive Officer, Alfred Temile, signed the VMA at the event, witnessed by Adegboyega Oyetola, Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, represented by Ekanem Ogegere Celia, Deputy Director, Cabotage and Shipping; Felix Omatsola Ogbe, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board; Andy Odeh, General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development; Salihu Jamari, Chief Investment Officer, NNPC Gas & Power Investment Services, among others.

Speaking at the milestone event, NSML’s MD, Ahmed, emphasised that NSML will leverage its expertise and resources to ensure the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of the Alfred Temile 10. He stated that the relationship with Temile Development Company started with the delivery of the first LPG vessel – LPG Alfred Temile – to NLNG in 2020.

“The relationship grew and continued with the construction, supervision and delivery of the 2nd LPG Vessel – Alfred Temile 10 – to Nigeria in March 2024. This momentous occasion represents our shared commitment to excellence, safety, and innovation in the maritime industry. It also represents the tenacious can-do-spirit of Mr Alfred Temile who has grown his LPG vessel fleet within a span of four (4) years. The Alfed Temile 10 is a testament to our dedication to operating a modern, efficient, and environmentally responsible fleet. With its cutting-edge design and technology, this vessel will set a new standard for LPG transportation in Nigeria and the West Africa,” he said.

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Also speaking at the event, Mr. Temile, stressed that the new vessel will play a critical role in gas transportation in Nigeria, enhancing the company’s capacity to deliver high-quality services while adhering to the highest standards of safety and environmental stewardship.

“We are confident that this partnership will set a new benchmark in the industry, and we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. As we embark on this new chapter, we also anticipate further strategic investment decisions including a third gas carrier later this year, demonstrating our commitment to deliver sustainable growth and value to our shareholders and Nigeria,” he added.

The keynote speaker, Engr. Felix Ogbe, commended NSML and Temile Development Company for partnering together. He stressed that there was ample human capacity, resources and tenacity in-country to achieve great feats, calling for increased colloboration and cooperation in the maritime industry.

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Presidency to get two new aircraft for Tinubu, Shettima

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President Bola Tinubu and Vice President, Kashim Shettima, would be cruising in brand new aircraft soon, going by the indications coming from the National Assembly, which has announced its approval to allow the acquisition of two of the flying birds for the Presidency.

The House of Representatives, which gave indications on Wednesday, explained that the need to acquire the aircrafts was to ensure maximum security for the President and his deputy, as part of its findings after an audit of the presidential fleet currently serving the two principal officers of the nation.

The House relying on the recommendations of its committee on National Security and Intelligence, said: “The committee is of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of technical/operational inadequacy of the presidential air fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircraft as recommended.

“This will also prove to be most cost-efficient in the long run apart from the added advantage of providing a suitable, comfortable and safe carrier befitting of the status and responsibilities of the office of the president and vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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The investigation, which was sequel to the inability of the VP to travel with his aircraft in May this year owing to technical faults, was instigated by a motion by Satomi Ahmed, member from Jere Federal Constituency of Borno State, who had raised an alarm over the matter, on the floor of the House, leading to a comprehensive investigation being ordered by the members.

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Despite the heated debates over the matter, with some lawmakers, who were uncomfortable with the suggestion, citing the current poor economic situation in the country, urging the Tinubu and Shettima to use commercial aircrafts of travel by road, Ahmed explained that the proposal remained the best solution at the moment.

The committee had met the commanders of the Presidential fleet, when Shettima, was forced to use a chartered plane from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia during his recent trip abroad, after initially cancelling a trip to the US to represent Tinubu at the 2024 US-Africa business summit.

Ahmed, who told reporters on Wednesday that the committee would set up a technical committee to interface with the officials at the presidential air fleet and come up with a resolution.

Reports say the six aircraft currently in the Presidential fleet, include one Boeing 737 (19 years old, currently unserviceable and undergoing maintenance); one Gulfstream G550 (13 years old, in good condition), one Gulfstream GV (23 years old, unserviceable); two Falcon 7Xs (one serviceable, one unserviceable); and one Challenger CL605 (12 years old, serviceable).

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The helicopter fleet includes two Agusta 139s (17 and 18 years old, both unserviceable); four Agusta 189s (no information on their condition).

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