Nigerian President’s star witness tells court that the president’s $460k forfeiture over drug trafficking was civil not criminal
The Nigerian All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, that it would not participate in the whipping of dead horses as it declined to open defence in the petition of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku challenging the conduct and declaration in the February 25 presidential election.
APC through its lead counsel, Prince Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi SAN said that there was absolutely nothing to defend in the separate petitions of the Labour Party and the PDP.
The senior lawyer came to the conclusion not to open defence in Atiku’s petition after cross examining the Senate Majority Leader, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, the star witness to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Fagbemi had subjected Senator Bamidele to rigorous questioning during which the witness who is a legal practitioner, admitted that Tinubu’s election cannot be reversed on the strength of his forfeiture of $460, 000 to the United States of America (USA) through a court order.
The witness while responding to Fagbemi’s questions held that Tinubu was not arraigned, indicted or sentence for any criminal charges by any American Court adding that civil forfeiture cannot take the place of criminal trial and conviction.
” As far as criminal indictment is concerned, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a clean bill of health because he was never indicted and convicted by any American Court’ Senator Bamidele said.
Answering another question, the Senate Majority Leader claimed to have known President Tinubu for more than 35 years as bonafide Nigerian citizen by birth.
However after reviewing the evidence of the witness and it was time for APC to open defence, Fagbemi said, “Having taken a sober reflection of the entire case we have enough evidence and we are not calling any witness, we do not intend to whip dead horses, we announce the closure of the case of the 3rd respondent”
Earlier, the Senate Majority Leader had told the PEPT that Tinubu does not need to score 25 percent of votes cast in FCT to be declared winner of the February 25 election.
The witness, who was cross examined by Eyitayo Jegede, SAN counsel to Atiku and PDP said although Abuja is the Federal Capital of Nigeria but has no special status other than that.
When asked if the committee reports on the location of FCT recommended a special status for FCT, the witness admitted that FCT is a symbol of unity, maintained that other state capitals such as Kano, Ibadan, Enugu, and others are also centers of unity.
He agreed with the petitioner’s counsel that President Tinubu scored 19.4 percent in total votes cast in FCT.
When told that Tinubu emerged as the first President to be declared without scoring 25 percent votes in FCT and not winning his home state, the witness said it does not matter.
According to the witness, the judgment of the US court on the forfeiture of $460,000 has Tinubu’s name but not as a criminal suspect but as civil proceedings, insisting that it was civil forfeiture and not a criminal forfeiture.
Under further cross examination by counsel to APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, the witness agreed that there cannot be a conviction without a charge, trial, indictment and conviction.
The witness said by the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in a suit filed by Labour Party against INEC on the mode of collation of election results held that INEC is at liberty to use any mode of collation it deems fit.
After the testimony of President Tinubu’s sole witness, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN announced the closure of Tinubu’s defence, while Lateef Fagbemi, SAN announced for APC.
Meanwhile, the Court has given the respondents 10 days to file their final written addresses, and the petitioner 7 days to respond and 5 days to reply on point of law.
Presiding Justice of the Presidential Election Petition Court, Justice Haruna Tsammani
said that the parties would be communicated on the date for the adoption of the final written addresses.
Akowe with NAN and PRNigeria reports