The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja on Tuesday admitted documents in evidence accusing President Bola Tinubu of drug offences in the United States.
The court accepted the documents as exhibits in the case filed by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, to challenge Mr Tinubu’s victory in the 25 February election.
Alleging widespread irregularities during the presidential election and Mr Tinubu’s ineligibility to contest the election, Mr Obi is also asking the court to nullify his victory.
Mr Tinubu was sworn in as Nigeria’s president on Monday, although the cases challenging his election will not be decided until September.
When the suit came up on Tuesday, Mr Obi’s lawyer, Jibrin Okutepa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, tendered some court documents purporting to be the US court’s decision awarding $460,000 fine against Mr Tinubu for illicit drugs trafficking imposed by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
The suit marked:93C 4483 was between the United States of America and Mr Tinubu.
Mr Okutepa also tendered documents to aid Mr Obi’s case of double nomination being pushed against the vice president, Kashim Shettima.
Obi’s first witness testifies
After the five-member panel of the court led by Haruna Tsammani admitted the documents in evidence, Mr Okutepa called his client’s first witness.
The witness, Lawrence Nwakaeti, said he deposed to a witness statement on 20 March at the court’s registry in Abuja.
Mr Nwakaeti, a lawyer, told the court that he voted during the 25 February presidential election at his polling unit at Umuezeala Village Square, Ihiala in Anambra State.
In his depositions, Mr Nwakaeti said Mr Tinubu was fined in the US for allegedly trafficking in narcotics.
But under cross-examination by Wole Olanipekun, Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Mr Nwakaeti said he would be surprised to know if Mr Tinubu was not fined in the documents he tendered to the court.
Responding to Mr Olanipekun’s enquiry if the witness had been to the US, Mr Nwakaeti answered in the affirmative.
Specifically, he said he had visited Michigan in 2003.
Also, APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, a SAN, asked Mr Nwakaeti if he was aware that a “formal clearance report” was issued by a legal attaché of the US embassy, absolving Mr Tinubu of any wrongdoing concerning the alleged crime.
In his response, Mr Nwakaeti said he was not aware of any clearance report in favour of Mr Tinubu.
After the witness concluded his testimony, the court adjourned Mr Obi’s petition until Wednesday for further hearing.
As part of the grounds of the petition, Mr Obi argued that Mr Tinubu, “at the time of the (presidential) election, was not qualified to contest the election.”
He based this claim on the grounds that the Mr Tinubu “was fined $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″ between the United States of America and Bola Tinubu.
Concerning the alleged non-qualification of Mr Shettima, Mr Obi’s lawyer, Mr Okutepa told journalists on Tuesday the facts of his case were different from the Supreme Court’s decision dismissing PDP’s contention against the vice president.
The petitioner had argued in court filings that the law provided that a presidential candidate shall nominate another person as his associate who is to occupy the office of vice president.
He recalled that Mr Tinubu had nominated Mr Shettima as his vice-presidential candidate on 14 July 2022 while the latter was still representing Borno Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
He added that the APC nominated Mr Shettima as its candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District as of 15 July 2022, while already chosen by Mr Tinubu as his running mate.
Mr Obi said Mr Shettima should not have allowed himself to be nominated in “more than one constituency”. He said this was a violation of the provision of the Electoral Act.
He vowed to prove in court that APC’s “purported sponsorship” of Messrs Tinubu and Shettima while the latter was still representing Borno Central Senatorial district, rendered their candidacy “invalid.”
He added that “…for this reason, the votes purportedly recorded for” Mr Tinubu “at the presidential election were/are wasted votes and ought to be disregarded”.
The petitioner also contended that Mr Tinubu “was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
He argued that Mr Tinubu did not win the majority of lawful votes cast in each of at least two-third of the states of the federation and the FCT, Abuja.
Mr Obi, who came third in the presidential race, urged the court to declare him president or order a fresh poll.
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