The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), based in Abuja, has unequivocally rejected claims of a drug trafficking conviction against President Bola Tinubu in the United States. In a landmark judgment delivered in response to a joint petition filed by the Labour Party and its candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, the court established that the $460,000 fine imposed on Tinubu in the United States was related to a civil matter and did not constitute a criminal conviction.
The lead judgment, delivered by Justice Haruna Tsammani, emphasized that the case leading to the fine in the United States was a civil forfeiture proceeding concerning funds in a bank account rather than a criminal charge against Tinubu as an individual. Justice Tsammani clarified that civil forfeiture proceedings were targeted at property and not their owners, distinguishing them as a unique legal remedy.
Furthermore, the court concluded that there was no evidence to prove that Tinubu had been indicted, arraigned, tried, or convicted of any criminal offense in the USA. It noted that a letter from the Inspector General of Police in 2003 confirmed the absence of a criminal record against Tinubu at the American Embassy’s centralized information center. Both the letter from the IGP and the response from the US Embassy were considered admissible public documents.
Additionally, the court pointed out that the Petitioners failed to present any evidence demonstrating Tinubu’s involvement in any offense involving dishonesty. Moreover, since more than a decade had passed since the imposition of the fine in question, it could not be considered a valid basis for seeking his disqualification from the presidential election.
Consequently, the court dismissed the segment of the petition filed by the Labour Party and Peter Obi, which aimed to invalidate President Tinubu’s election. The Petitioners had raised concerns about Tinubu’s eligibility, alleging that he had been previously indicted and fined $460,000.00 by the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, for an offense involving dishonesty and drug trafficking. They contended that this indictment constituted grounds for disqualification under section 137 (1) (d) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.