On the commencement of the definite hearing on the petition brought against Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, called its first witness out of the 50 proposed.
Counsel to Peter Obi, Jibrin Okutepa tendered a judgement from a district court in the United States, which reportedly indicted President Bola Tinubu and ordered his forfeiture of US$460,000 in drug-related offences before the tribunal.
The first witness, by name Lawrence Nwakaeti, who is a legal practitioner, disclosed that he was deposed to the witness statement on March 20, 2023.
Part of the documents deposed to by Nwakaeti referred to the alleged $460,000 forfeiture by Tinubu to the government of the United States.
One of the grounds on which the LP and Obi are praying for the court to nullify Tinubu’s victory is that the president, Tinubu “at the time of the election was not qualified to contest for election to the office of President as he was fined the sum of $460,000 for an offence involving dishonesty, namely narcotics trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Case No: 93C 4483.”
On cross-examination by counsel to Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun, the witness admitted that the judgement was not registered in Nigeria.
Asked by Tinubu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, if he has ever visited the USA, the witness, said: “Yes my lords, I have been there at least once. That was in 2003. I was in Michigan”.
In a follow-up question, Olanipekun, SAN, asked the witness: “My learned friend, you stated emphatically in your statement that the 2nd respondent was fined the sum of $460,000.00. Do you still stand by that deposition?”
Answering, the witness, said: “Yes my lord, I stand by it.”
“Will you then be surprised that from the document which you tendered, there is no single line or even a word, relating to the issue of fine?”, Olanipekun, SAN, asked.
“My lords, I will be surprised because he was fined, and the document speaks for itself,” the witness replied.
“Are you aware if the said indicting document was registered in Nigeria or if any certificate was attached to it from any consular,” Olanipekun, SAN, queried?
“No, it was not registered. But
The documents were duly certified,” the witness stated, adding, “my lords, there is a certificate from the person that issued it. But there is no certificate from the consular”.
Also asked if there was a certificate from any police officer in the USA where the offence was allegedly committed.
The witness replied in the negative, saying; “My lords, there is no certificate as the police played no role in the indictment.”
While being cross-examined by the counsel to APC, Lateef Fagbemi, the witness said the American court judgement had no certificate given under the hand of any American police officer.
When asked by Fagbemi, SAN, to produce a copy of the charges against Tinubu, the witness said he had none but maintained that the forfeiture are from civil proceedings.
“You are aware that all the proceedings were civil proceedings?”
“Civil forfeiture proceedings,” the witness replied.
Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, asked if he was aware of a letter dated February 4, 2003, which the Legal Attache to US Embassy, wrote to clear Tinubu of any complicity in the drug-related case.
“I am not aware of such a clearance letter,” the witness replied.
While being cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer, the witness said he was a registered voter that participated in the presidential election held on February 25.
“I have my Permanent Voters Card and I voted at my polling unit located in front of my house at Umuezella Village Square.
“I did not play any other role except exercising my civic duty”, the witness, who said he was called to the Nigerian Bar as a lawyer, on October 13, 2000, added.
Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, through its lead counsel, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, said it was not opposed to the admissibility of the document.
Both President Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, said they
After the witness’ testimony, the court admitted the judgement into evidence, were vehemently opposed to the admissibility of the document.
They however said that they would however reserve their reasons for opposing the document, in their final briefs of argument.
Consequently, Justice Haruna Tsammani-led’s five-member panel admitted the document in evidence and marked it as Exhibit PA- 5.
Following the conclusion of evidence by LP’s first witness, the lead counsel to LP, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) informed the court that they had applied for subpoena for the remaining witnesses to appear before the court.
The presiding chairman of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani, on announced the approval of the subpoena which are in the court’s secretariat after the LP lawyers drew the attention of the court to it.
The court had on Tuesday began full trial in the petitions by the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi; and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Chichi Ojei, challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Among those present in court to witness the day’s proceedings was LP’s Obi, while his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed; and the former Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, were first-time callers.
The Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani adjourned further hearing in the petition till May 31.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur