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$460,000 US Civil Forfeiture Not Ground To Disqualify Tinubu – Presidential Tribunal

The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has held that President Bola Tinubu was qualified to have contested the last presidential election.

The court held that Tinubu was not disqualified by the $460,000 fine imposed on him by a United States court following a civil forfeiture proceeding.

In a judgment on Wednesday in the petition by Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP), the court held that the fine imposed by the US court did not qualify as a fine for fraud or dishonesty provided in Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution.

Justice Haruna Tsammani, who led the five-member panel, held that a careful perusal of exhibits that were adduced before the court, showed that the case that led to the fine that was awarded against President Tinubu, “was in the civil docket” of the court in the US.

He held that contrary to the contention of the Petitioners, the case, was a civil forfeiture proceeding against funds that were in the bank and not an action that was against Tinubu as a person.

He described such civil forfeiture proceeding as a unique remedy that is targeted at a property and not the owner.

More so, the court held that Obi and the LP failed to show that Tinubu was indicted, arraigned, tried or convicted for any criminal offence in the USA.

The court further noted that following a letter the Inspector General of Police wrote in 2003, the American Embassy, confirmed that there was no criminal record against Tinubu in its centralized information center.

It held that both the letter from the IGP and the response from the US Embassy, were public documents that are admissible in evidence.

It added that the petitioners evidently failed to prove their case that Tinubu was disqualified by virtue of the decision of the US court, adding that Obi and the LP did not comply with the requirement of Section 249(1) and (2) of the Evidence Act in proving conviction outside the country.

It held that the US court case was in respect of a civil case, not a criminal case, adding even if it was to be a criminal case, Section 137(1)(e) of the Constitution, such conviction or fine must be within 10 years for a person to be disqualified.

The Petitioners had among other things, challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the presidential election, alleging that he was previously indicted and fined the sum of $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483, for an offence involving dishonesty and drug trafficking.

They contended that such indictment, constituted a ground for disqualification under section 137 (1) (d) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.



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