Barely 24 hours before the flag-off of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign in Jos, Plateau State, President Muhammadu Buhari, has been advised not to join the trial without first investigating the circumstances surrounding the forfeiture to the United States Government of the sum of $460,000 by the flag bearer of the party, Bola Tinubu.
The advice was given by the Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation which reasoned that if the allegations of narcotic involvement were proved to be true in the end, it will impugn the President’s integrity.
President Buhari is expected to grace the Jos rally to lead the campaign for the ruling party’s candidate.
The spokesman of the campaign organization, Kola Ologbondiyan, who gave this admonition in a phone chat on Monday, recalled that the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, who is also the spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign, had admitted that there was a forfeiture of money by Tinubu even though he linked it to tax issues.
According to the campaign organization, whether the forfeiture was linked to drugs or tax, there was no doubt money was taken from Tinubu’s account.
The Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization, therefore, noted that given the implications that might follow, the right thing to do is for President Buhari to probe the allegations before presenting Tinubu to Nigerians.
The campaign organization maintained: “There are suggestions in public space that President Muhammadu Buhari should distance himself from the candidate of their party on the ground that it can rubbish whatever integrity is left of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, the natural expectation is that the government of President Buhari can go and even investigate the allegation against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the sense that a serving minister in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the spokesperson of the campaign organization of Bola Tinubu had already admitted the fact that there was forfeiture. But he said it was taxation.
“So, whichever way you look at it, money believed to belong to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was taken out of his account, a whopping sum of $460,000. There’s no argument of any sort.
“And as we speak now, there are also reports in public space Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu claimed to have worked in Deloitte. But there are reports now that Deloitte has denied the fact that he ever worked with them.
“So, I believe that all this needs to be investigated by President Muhammadu Buhari before he begins to go around to present Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a candidate.
“Because if at the end of the day he doesn’t carry out a proper investigation and all the issues that are in public space come out to be real, how is he going to run away from it? Or how is he going to run away from them?”
The Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization warned that with just a few months left in his tenure, President Buhari should not allow himself to be dragged into any drug controversy.
“You don’t expect a President Buhari who was elected into office on account of his integrity to go and support a candidate who is being alleged to have forfeited money to the United States government on grounds of the alleged link to drug issues.
“You don’t expect a president who is leaving office, who has how many months to leave the office to be dragged into a drug cartel. These issues of the drug cartel, these are implications that might arise,” the campaign organization declared.
Recall that following the recent receipt of a certified true copy of the US order to forfeit the amount, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had hinted that it may approach the court to determine if his participation in the 2023 poll will not violate the Constitution and Electoral Act.
The National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition party, Debo Ologunagba, who addressed a press conference on the issue in Abuja on Sunday, disclosed that the party is keeping its options open.
The party spokesman, who was fielding questions, on the attempt by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to distance itself from the case that emanated from a court in Chicago, Illinois, had been asked whether it will head to court should the electoral body fail to act.
He said: “We are very hopeful. What we decide to do as a party, we don’t consult you, we don’t tell you. When we started the case against Osun, we didn’t tell you, right?
“So, we will look at the issue and take decisions and actions based on the exigencies of the times, the requirement and the need to protect our constitution and our electoral process. So, you leave that us.”
Speaking specifically on a possible court challenge, Ologunagba, stated: “Every option is on the table. And so, I will leave it like that.”
He debunked the insinuation that a court in the United States is not of competent jurisdiction, explaining that countries are encouraged to domesticate international conventions in which Nigeria is a signatory, and such has led to local laws including the one money laundering.
“Second, trafficking in narcotics is one such. That’s why we have the NDLEA and other agencies of government to enforce that because they have been domesticated, they are international conventions.
“Those crimes are described as international crimes to which every member state of the United Nations is a signatory and they are obligated to be like.
“And our constitution is also clear about that. It talks about a court or tribunal in Nigeria and it says ‘by any court or any other court’ which by my interpretation and by extension of this constitution, is any other court that is consistent with those international conventions and international crimes.
“We will study it and any appropriate action that needs to be taken, it will be taken. Like I said to you, every option is on the table,” he declared as he read from the proceedings of the court suggesting an indictment.
Reading from a prepared text earlier, the PDP spokesman, said: “It is no longer news that the Presidential Candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is irredeemably and hopelessly ineligible to contest the February 2023 Presidential election having been reportedly indicted and subjected to criminal forfeiture judgement for a narcotic related offence by a United States Court in Northern Illinois.
“Nigerians are however appalled by the lame attempt by the APC Presidential Campaign which, after admitting that there was a $460,000 drug money criminal forfeiture judgment against accounts traced to the APC Presidential Candidate, is now desperately trying to pull a wool over the eyes of the Nigerians people and our democratic institutions.
“Seeing that it is technically out of the Presidential contest and further distraught because it cannot also field candidates at all levels in the 2023 general elections due to its illegal and unconstitutional congresses, the APC has resorted to unleashing hoodlums to attack PDP Presidential Campaign rallies and other innocent Nigerians going about their legitimate endeavours as witnessed in Kaduna and Borno States, in a bid to trigger a crisis and scuttle the elections.
“There are already apprehensions in the public space of unrefuted allegations that the APC is behind the orchestrated attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices in Ogun and Osun States.
“The plan of the APC is to instil fear in the citizenry, disorganize and weaken other political parties, frighten, hamstring and immobilize INEC from conducting the 2023 general elections.
“The APC must note that its schemes, denials, threats and resort to violence cannot help Asiwaju Tinubu. By the provision of Section 137 (1) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) Asiwaju Tinubu is not eligible to contest the Presidential election in Nigeria.
“Section 137 (1) (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that:(1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if:
(d) He is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or for any other offence, imposed on him by ANY COURT or tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal.
“For clarity, forfeiture means “something to which the right is lost as for commission of a crime or misdeed, neglect of duty, or violation of a contract”
“It is instructive to note that trafficking in narcotics is an international crime to which all nations are obliged and mandated to apprehend, prosecute and enforce any judgment or Court Order imposed on the offender. Nigeria is a signatory to the international convention on trafficking in narcotics and is obliged to enforce any Order or judgement imposed on any offender by a competent court ANYWHERE in the world.
“For emphasis, the US Court “Ordered that the funds in the amount of $460,000 in account 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu represent proceeds of narcotics trafficking or were involved in financial transactions in violation of 18 U.S.C. S1956 and 1957 and therefore these funds are forfeited to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. S881(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C S981.’
“Having been sentenced and fined by way of criminal forfeiture of $460,000 drug money in a criminal suit filed pursuant to the United States Criminal Code, Asiwaju Tinubu cannot by virtue of Section 137 (1)(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) seek office as President of Nigeria.”
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
$460,000 forfeiture: Probe allegations before joining Tinubu’s campaign, Atiku/Okowa Campaign tells Buhari