Tinubu: Prosecution Or Persecution?

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The arraignment of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is seen by the opposition as political persecution. The CCT had revealed that government has iron-clad evidence to nail Tinubu. The shocker now is that the same CCT on Tuesday revealed that it didn’t arraign other ex-governors because the tribunal had entered into plea bargain with them to let them off the hook. FRANCIS AGBO and BAYO OLADEJI observe that the CCT revelation may have buttressed the view that Tinubu is been persecuted.

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The much-awaited trial of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the Code of Conduct Tribunal will continue on Thursday, October 6 in Abuja. This follows the stalled September 21 arraignment. The tribunal adjourned to enable Tinubu study the amendments made to the charges by the lead counsel to federal government, Mr. Alex Iziyon, Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
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Tinubu is alleged to have breached the code of conduct for public officers by operating some foreign accounts while in office between 1999 and 2007. According to CCT, Tinubu contravened Section 7 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap 56 Laws of the Federation, 1990 and punishable under Section 23 (2) thereof as incorporated under paragraph 18, part I of the 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. ?If found guilty, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leader risks a jail terms of at least 10 years imprisonment or forfeiture of money involved or both.?
Tinubu’s apostles however believe his trial could mar the survival of the opposition in the country more so that he is the leading opposition politician on the political scene. They said the only way the trial of the former Lagos State governor would be perceived as devoid of which hunt is for the federal government to dock the remaining 14 ex-governors that were allegedly indicted for breaching the Code of Conduct Act. Prominent among the apostles is Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who accused the federal government of lynching Tinubu to frustrate the opposition from putting its act together ahead of 2015.?
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But the crisis of confidence rocking the CCT seemed to have been laid to rest last Tuesday in Abuja when the CCT said it did not try the ex-governors who allegedly breached the Code of Conduct Act because they were set free after entering into plea bargain with CCT. The CCT chairman, Mr. Sam Saba disclosed this in a chat with news hounds in Abuja. ‘‘Tinubu has not been singled out for trial; it is an ongoing process. You will also note that some of those governors at the time made some refunds to the federal government. Somebody like Saminu Turaki (former governor of
Jigawa State) made refunds to federal government….so it is an ongoing exercise,’’ Saba said.?
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The implication of Saba’s explanation is that Tinubu wouldn’t have been tried if he had played ball. To this end, analysts are questioning why CCT didn’t enter plea bargain with Tinubu if truly federal government does not have vested interest in the opposition leader? What is good for the goose the opposition stressed should equally be juicy for gander.?
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The bureau had in a seven-paragraph affidavit supporting the charge, deposed to by Ikechi Iwuagwu, a deputy director insisted that the former governor operated foreign accounts while in office and failed to list them in the assets declaration form. According to Iwuagwu’s affidavit, “on 4th of March, 2003, before the expiration of the first term in office of Governor Bola Tinubu, an asset declaration form CCB-1 was sent to the accused person as a public officer. The accused person declared his assets and liabilities in the said form and returned the form to our office on 6th January, 2004. A copy of the said form is hereby attached and marked as Exhibit “A.” All the assets declared by the accused person are as indicated in the assets declaration from CCB-1. The accused person did not declare any other things/assets or the operation of several foreign bank accounts in the said assets declaration form CCB-1 submitted by the accused person marked as Exhibit A. I was informed by Mr. O. T. Olatigbe, counsel handling this matter, and I verily believe him that the accused person is still operating several foreign bank accounts which he did not declare before the Code of Conduct Bureau.”
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The foreign bank accounts allegedly operated by Tinubu as contained in the charge sheet are as follows: (1) First Heritage Bank, Country Club Hills, Illinois, USA with Account Number 263226700. Citibank NA New York, USA operated in the name of Bola Tinubu and Compass Finance and Investment Company Ltd with Account Nos- 39483134, 39483396 and 4650279566. Citibank Internati-onal New York. Account No. 52050-89451952 and 52050-89451953. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 6QJ. Account Number 71253670 SORT Code 40-03-15. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 6QJ with account name as Bola Oluremi Tinubu. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 60J. Account Number 04320002DN. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 60J. Account Name: Tinubu Habibat Oyindamola (Miss). Account No-132096011. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 60J. Account No- 172447101. Account Name Tinubu Zainab Abisola (Miss). HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 60J. Account No- 1916667988. Account Name Tinubu Oluremi Shade. HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street London WIW 60J. Account No- 41421522. Account Name- Oluremi Shade Tinubu.
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But Tinubu appeared not worried. In a swift reaction to the affidavit, Tinubu stated that after years of threats, political mudslinging and media trial on the impending allegations, a formal invitation to commence trial has finally come, which he welcomes. He said as a law abiding citizen, when he was informed that the summons had arrived, he directed his staff to duly accept it; and not evade service in conformity with his profound respect for the rule of law. He stated that as the battle now shifts to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, those who allege must prove. He also welcomes the opportunity to put an end to years of insinuations, unproven allegations and politically orchestrated persecution. ? He called on his teeming supporters “to keep calm but be vigilant, while the Nigerian judiciary do justice in this matter.”
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According to reports, two officers, one each from CCT and EFCC (names withheld) have also been penciled in to testify during the trial. This information is contained in the witness list attached to the one count-charge against him. However, the officer listed for the anti-corruption commission recently left its service, with a source revealing that he would be replaced soon.
It will be recalled that the trial could not commence on September 17 due to the amendment made to the charge against him which required that Tinubu ? studies it before returning to court in October for his plea. The defence team itself has indicated plan to scuttle the trial based on technicalities over jurisdiction of the court. This will be followed by ‘‘no case to answer’’ submission.
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Meanwhile, there are strong indications that ?Tinubu may be charged to a regular court for the criminal aspect of the charge preferred against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the Federal Government. However, other sources noted that the trial at the tribunal may have to run to an end before the one in the regular court could take off, since the case before the tribunal would be used to determine the level of criminality involved in the alleged crime. Some lawyers insist that the godfather of the opposition can approach the Lagos High Court to challenge the jurisdiction of the CCT.
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Legal experts argued that if Tinubu fails to disqualify the CCT from the matter and the CCT convicts him of the charge, especially the first count which borders on operating and maintaining foreign accounts, then he would be equally guilty of the second charge which borders on false declaration of assets on oath to the Code of Conduct Bureau, then it is certain that he would be charged to the regular court for perjury and criminal conduct trial.
Sources close to Tinubu told LEADERSHIP that when the trial begins next month, the defence team led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN) would not allow his client to plead guilty or not guilty as he vowed to disqualify the panel from hearing the matter.
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This is not the first time Tinubu would be charged to the tribunal. ?On April 24, 2007 he had appeared before the CCT. The trial was, however, stalled for government’s lack of political will to prosecute Tinubu. Some had also viewed his prosecution then as an attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled federal government to silence opposition forces. Aside lack of political will, LEADERSHIP gathered that the 2007 attempt suffered set back due to the cold war between the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the CCT. Both agencies scrambled over which agency should prosecute him. There are some people who believed the trial may have been truncated because of the robust relationship between Tinubu and the late President, Umaru Yar Adua who succeeded President Olusegun Obasanjo whom Tinubu loves to hate.?
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?Tinubu’s supporters believe their hero would come out of his trial without blemish. Their confidence is premised on history. In January 2009, EFCC cleared ?Tinubu and governors James Ibori of Delta State and Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State of charges of conspiracy, money laundering, abuse of office and official corruption in relation to a sale of V-mobile network shares in 2004. In September 2009, however there were reports that the British Metropolitan Police were investigating a transaction in which the Lagos State government made an investment in Econet (now Zain). Tinubu said the transaction was straightforward and profitable to the state, with no intermediaries involved. The federal government rejected a request by Britain to release evidence needed for further investigation and prosecution of the three Nigerian ex-governors in a London court. In his first term as governor, Tinubu was accused of certificate forgery but the state House of Assembly under Olorunnimbe Mamora who later became a senator gave him clean bill. All efforts made by the late Lagos-fiery lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi to jail him for forgery became waste.
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?Since 1999 to date, there has never been a conclusive trial of any high flyer politician by the CCT. Recall that when Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC boss was arraigned, people suspected political persecution. It was later resolved politically
?It is also true that the then anti-graft czar, Ribadu reportedly threatened to arrest Tinubu and try him once his tenure was over and he is striped of the immunity. ?But years after, Tinubu remained untouchable and to further rubbish the whole drama, during the Presidential Debate when Nuhu who had defected to the ACNN was asked if Tinubu was no longer a suspect, he dismissed the insinuation with a wave of hands and gave the ex-governor a clean bill. Ironically, it was the same investigation conducted by Nuhu Ribadu led- EFCC that would be used to try him with anti-graft agencies as witnesses.?
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It will be realled that in June 2006, Obasanjo set up a joint task force led by Ribadu to fight corruption. The composition of the JTF includes representatives of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Police. ?The JTF commenced its activities in a temporary office located at Asokoro. During its inaugural meeting, the committee noted that its cardinal functions were to complement the activities of their primary establishments.
?The team commenced its activities by embarking on the verification of Assets of Public Officers. This was meant to provide background knowledge to identify corrupt public officers for further investigation.
After months of sitting, The JTF concluded that some public office holders declared assets far above what they owned as their declaration could not be substantiated. The JTF also noted that some officials failed to declare some of the properties they acquired while in office while many were indicted for operating foreign accounts. Out of those indicted, 15 of them were sitting governors.


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