The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, in the February 25 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, has insisted that the declaration of Bola Tinubu as Nigeria’s president is unlawful and unconstitutional.
He stressed that Tinubu must be removed from office to sanitise the country’s polity.
Atiku stated this in his final address to support his petition seeking nullification of Tinubu’s victory.
He maintained that Tinubu having personally admitted and as also confirmed by his witness that he forfeited $460,000 to the American government over the offence of narcotics trafficking and money laundering has no basis to contest for Nigeria’s Presidency.
Atiku dismissed the claim of Tinubu and his witness that he forfeited the $460,000 money in a civil court action.
The former Vice President argued that the definition and colour of “civil action” being given to the criminal forfeiture by Tinubu were of no moment and untenable because a United States of America Court acted on the indictment of Tinubu before imposing the forfeiture fine on him.
The final address endorsed by Atiku’s lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, read in part.
“The forfeiture of $460,000 by the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) to the United States Government (a competent authority in the instant case) is neither contested nor disputed by any of the Respondents. The feeble response of the Respondents is that there was no arraignment or criminal conviction.
“The verified complaint for forfeiture and the entire records of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division dated September 15, 1993, was indicated that the 2nd Respondent’s funds totaling $460,000, were seized as the funds which constitute proceeds of narcotics trafficking and money laundering.
“The 2nd Respondent’s (Tinubu’s) sole witness Senator Bamidele Opeyemi, admitted under cross-examination when shown the American court judgment that the proceedings affected the 2nd Respondent, as his name was reflected in the records of the court.
“It is pertinent to observe that the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) evaded denying the forfeiture of the said sum of $460,000 U.S Dollars to the United States Government for narcotics trafficking and money laundering activities but engaged in the semantic distinction between civil and criminal forfeiture, as well as the defence that the offence was committed over 10 years.
“It is submitted, that forfeiture whether “civil” or “criminal” takes its source from the commission of a crime.
“The word “forfeiture” means – “the divestiture of property without compensation. The loss of a right, privilege, or property because of a crime, breach of obligation, or neglect of duty.”
“It is submitted with respect that in all the above definitions, the common thread that runs through all categories of Forfeiture is the imputation of a crime, leading to the seizure of property or money.
“It cannot be argued therefore that there was no imputation of crime or a finding of a violation of Penal laws relating to proceeds of drug trafficking or/and money laundering for which punishment was imposed.
“The 2nd Respondent’s forfeiture proceedings fall squarely within the prohibition and disqualification list contained in Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution as the proceedings constitute:
“…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, or.”
“No doubt and it is so submitted that the “United States DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION qualified as a court (of record) and the forfeiture qualified as a punishment for criminal behavior or “Criminal activity” of 2nd Respondent. The Petitioners contend that the words “any offence (by whatever named is called)” and “substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him” as used are clearly elastic enough and indeed disqualified the 2nd Respondent in his quest to contest the Presidential election.
Atiku asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, to invoke Section 137 of the 1999 Constitution to nullify the declaration of Tinubu as president on account of his narcotics crime and remove as the president. Punch