The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, has dismissed the allegation that President Bola Tinubu was convicted in the United States of America, USA, on a drug trafficking related charge.
In a joint petition filed by the Labour Party and its candidate, Mr Peter Obi, the court has dismissed the claim, affirming that the evidence presented indicates that the $460,000 fine imposed on President Tinubu in the US was related to a civil matter.
It held that such fine did not translate to a criminal conviction that was capable of warranting Tibubu’s disqualification from contesting the presidential election that held on February 25.
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.
Additionally, the court held that Obi and the Labour Party failed to provide evidence demonstrating that Tinubu was indicted, prosecuted, tried, or convicted for any criminal offence in the USA. The court noted that a letter from the Inspector General of Police in 2003 and subsequent confirmation from the American Embassy showed no criminal record against Tinubu in their centralised information centre.
The court emphasised that these documents, the letter from the Inspector General of Police and the response from the US Embassy, were public and admissible as evidence. Furthermore, the petitioners could not establish that Tinubu had been tried and convicted for any dishonesty-related offence.
Besides, the court held that a period of 10 years had elapsed since the said fine was imposed against Tinubu, saying it, therefore, could not be a valid ground to seek his disqualification.
It accordingly dismissed that leg of the petition the LP and Obi filed to nullify President Tinubu’s election.
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.