On Monday morning, the Nigerian social media and internet were abuzz following a post by Uber Facts, a facts-promoting platform.
The social media update was related to the legal battles of Bola Tinubu, the country’s president-elect, with the U.S. authorities. Tinubu reportedly forfeited $460,000 gains from cocaine deals to the American government in 1993.
This revelation, which came as no surprise to many, has been a hot topic in the Nigerian political scene for some time.
The issue of Tinubu’s alleged involvement in the cocaine trade has become a recurring topic of conversation, with the opposition expressing their displeasure at the negative attention it has brought to the country.
To this end, POLITICS NIGERIA presents a comprehensive breakdown of the case made in the United States that has been causing a stir across Nigeria.
The case got many people’s attention in late 2022, as the 2023 presidential election drew closer. This was when analysts began to investigate the backgrounds of the major candidates, including Tinubu, a candidate and the eventual victor in the election.
During the campaigns, a certified copy of the decades-old case resurfaced, bringing the issue to national attention.
According to the documents, on January 10, 1992, Magistrate Judge Rosemond of the Northern District of Illinois ordered the seizure of funds from 10 bank accounts belonging to Tinubu. The U.S. government suspected that these accounts were connected to drug-related activities.
The accounts in question were opened at First Heritage Bank and Citi Bank in Chicago during the late 1980s to early 1990s.
“On January 10, 1992, applications for seizure warrants were presented to Magistrate Judge Rosemond of the Northern District of Illinois. After considering the applications and the attached affidavits, Magistrate Judge Rosemond issued seizure warrants for accounts at First Heritage Bank and Citibank in the name of Bola Tinubu. The amount Of money seized from these accounts exceeded 1.4 million dollars,” it read.
According to an affidavit filed by Kevin Moss, a special agent with the US Internal Revenue Service, Nigerian politician, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had a connection to two suspected drug kingpins in Chicago. Moss claimed that Tinubu shared a home address with one of the kingpins, Adegboyega Mueez Akande, and that Tinubu’s wife, Oluremi Tinubu, had a joint account with Akande’s wife, Audrey.
Moss also raised concerns about the amount of money flowing into Tinubu’s account, compared to his income as a staff member of Mobil.
“According to bank records, Bola Tinubu also opened a joint checking account in his name and the name of his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, Oluremi Tinubu previously opened a joint bank account also at this bank with Audrey Akande, the wife of Adegboyega Mueez Akande,” he said.
“According to records from Citibank International, there were two additional corporate accounts held in the name of Compass Finance and Investment Company, Ltd. which were controlled by Bola Tinubu.
“The bank records from these accounts in the international division disclosed that when Bola Tinubu opened these accounts at Citibank, International, he provided certain corporate documents from Compass Finance and Investment Company Ltd. including documents identified as a memorandum of association and articles of association. Both corporate documents identified Mueez Adegboyega Akande and Abiodun Olasuyi Abele as directors of Compass Finance and Investment Company, Limited.
“Representatives from Mobil Oil were interviewed regarding Tinubu’s employment status. The representatives confirmed that Tinubu was employed by Mobil Oil Nigeria Ltd. as a treasurer. This position, however, does not involve the transfer of large amounts of money between banking institutions.
“Mobil Oil representatives stated that under no circumstances would Tinubu be permitted to retain money belonging to Mobil Oil in accounts bearing Tinubu’s name. Finally, Mobil Oil confirmed that the corporation never had any accounts in banks in the southern suburbs of Chicago,” he stated.
However, as it turned out, the US government later settled with Tinubu and his associates, including KO Tinubu and Alhaji Mogati, in August 1993. As part of the settlement, the government agreed to release some of the funds, but $460,000 was to be forfeited.
“The parties agree that the funds held by Citibank shall be released to K.O. Tinubu and the action filed against these funds held in the accounts by Citibank shall be dismissed with prejudice.
“The parties further agree that $460,000 from the defendant account held by Heritage Bank in the name of Bola Tinubu shall be forfeited by the United States and disposed of according to law. The funds remaining in the account shall be released to K. O. Tinubu,” a part of the terms of the agreement read.
Reports on alleged association with Chicago drug kingpins began in 2003
The controversy surrounding Tinubu’s alleged links to drug kingpins in Chicago first emerged in 2003, when he was campaigning for re-election as governor of Lagos State. However, the matter was seemingly put to rest by a letter from the US consulate to the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun.
The letter, dated February 4, 2003, and signed by the Legal Attache to the US consulate, Michael Bonner, stated that Tinubu had no criminal record of indictment or prosecution.
Bonner clarified that Tinubu was never charged with any drug offence, the case did not go to trial, he was never convicted, and he was never barred from entering the US.
It stated: “The FBI never charged Tinubu with any drug offence; the case did not go on trial. Tinubu was never convicted. And he was never barred from entering the US.”
“In relation to your letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR. 3000/IGPSEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a record 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 centre that maintains the records of every criminal arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories,” it reads in part.
A “mere tax payment” — Tinubu’s spokesman had defended
The spokesperson for the APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, however, put a different spin on allegations of links and forfeiture involving his party’s then-presidential candidate.
During an appearance on Channels TV in November 2022, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria claimed that the $460,000 in question was actually a tax charged on funds held in banks.
However, this claim is not supported by the court documents, which do not refer to the forfeited sum being a tax.
“An indictment is different from conviction”
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, has used the allegations of cocaine links and forfeiture to challenge Tinubu’s victory in court.
The outcome of this legal challenge is still uncertain.
However, an Abuja-based criminal litigation lawyer, Bar. Fatihu AbdulRaheem, in 2022 had suggested that the case is more of an indictment than a conviction, meaning that Obi’s prayers for Tinubu’s sacking may not be granted in court.
AbdulRaheem cited the case of Umana vs. Attah (2004), in which the court ruled that an indictment is not evidence of an offence having been committed.
He said: “Technically speaking, an indictment is merely a charge or information. It is only when it is accepted by the court that the prosecution will be called upon to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“Conviction has been simply defined by the court in Mohammed V Olawunmi (1990) as a finding of guilt and a sentence
“Therefore, under our criminal jurisprudence, conviction and indictment are distinguishable both in substance and nomenclature.
“Even in the United State when a person is indicted, it only means they will be given formal notice that they are believed to have committed a crime and therefrom, an explanation will be required by way of defence.”
It is worth concluding that Tinubu, who is a prominent Nigerian politician has not been convicted of any crimes related to this case or any other case involving drug trafficking, as of the moment this publication was made.
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