Atiku to Tribunal: Don’t Encourage Violation of Our Constitution

Atiku to Tribunal: Don’t Encourage Violation of Our Constitution


•Insists Tinubu not qualified on account of $460,000 forfeiture, dual citizenship, alleged forged certificate 

•APC urges DSS, police to investigate PDP’s alleged foiled attack on ex-VP

Adedayo Akinwale and Alex Enumah in Abuja

Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 election, Atiku Abubakar, has challenged the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PREPEC) to not condone or encourage the violation of the country’s constitution.

Atiku argued that by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, President Bola Tinubu was unqualified to participate in the election, having forfeited $460,000 drug-related money, acquired citizenship of a country other than Nigeria, and presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

But All Progressives Congress (APC) called on the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to investigate PDP’s allegation about Boko Haram members arrested by the police following their foiled attack on the residence of the former vice president.

However, urging the presidential election tribunal to be bold and take the lead in righting the wrongs in the society, Atiku recalled some of the previous positions of the Supreme Court.

He stated, “This court must take the lead, in righting the wrongs in our society, if and when the opportunity presents itself, as in this appeal. Allowing criminality and certificate forgery to continue to percolate into the streams, waters and oceans of our national polity would only mean our waters are, and will remain, dangerously contaminated.

“The purification efforts must start now, and be sustained as we seek, as a nation, to now ‘change’ from our old culture of reckless impunity.”

Atiku, in his final written address, appealed to the tribunal to apply the above commendable approach of the courts with equal force to cases of brazen violation of the constitution, as shown in the instant petition.

He said, “The Petitioners in paragraph 16 of their petition, made the non-qualification of the Second Respondent a ground of challenge to the Second Respondent’s return. This complaint on the settled state of judicial authorities remains purely a matter of law, circumscribed around the provisions of section 137 (i) (a) (d) and (j) of 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“The relevant section provides: 137(i) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of the president if, ‘a. subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country.

“d he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria OR a sentence of imprisonment OR fine for any offence involving any other dishonesty OR fraud (by whatever name called) OR any for other offence, imposed on him by any court or tribunal OR substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal. j. he has presented forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

Atiku’s lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, who filed the final address, noted that the above provision was self-executory, being matters that the courts are enjoined to take judicial notice of.

Atiku maintained that Tinubu, having personally admitted and also confirmed by his witness that he forfeited $460,000 to the American government over offence of narcotics trafficking and money laundering, had no basis to contest and be declared winner of the presidential poll.

Uche stated, “The forfeiture of $460,000 by the Second Respondent to the United States Government, (a competent authority in the instant case), is neither contested nor disputed by any of the Respondents. The feeble response of the Respondents is that there was no arraignment or criminal conviction.

“The verified complaint for forfeiture and the entire records of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, eastern Division dated September 15, 1993, was clearly indicated that the Second Respondent’s funds totalling $460,000, were seized as the funds which constitute proceeds of narcotics trafficking and money laundering.

“The Second Respondent’s sole witness, Senator Bamidele Opeyemi, admitted under cross examination when shown the American court judgement that the proceedings affected the Second Respondent, as his name was reflected in the records of the court.

“It is pertinent to observe that the Second Respondent evaded denying the forfeiture of the said sum of $460,000 U.S Dollars to the United States Government for narcotic trafficking and money laundering activities, but engaged in semantic distinction between civil and criminal forfeiture, as well as the defence that the offence was committed over 10 years.”

Uche recalled that Justice Ariwoola himself (as he was then; now CJN) had in the case of Mohammed Abacha vs. FRN (2014), LPELR 22014 (SC), @ 46 held that, the word “forfeiture” meant – “the divesture of property without compensation. The loss of a right, privilege, or property because of a crime, breach of obligation, or neglect of duty.”

It followed that “title in those assets and property is instantaneously transferred to another, such as the government.”

Meanwhile, National Publicity Secretary of APC, Felix Morka, in a statement yesterday, accused PDP of spewing lies and gibberish over alleged foiled attack on Atiku in Yola.

Morka said the allegation came days after PDP alleged, without any substantiation, that APC was engaged in a plot to intimidate members of the judiciary to influence the outcome of pending cases before the election petitions’ courts.

The APC spokesman stated, “In continuation of its vacuous and mindless campaign of calumny, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that suspected members of Boko Haram terrorist group arrested by the police following their foiled plot to attack the residence of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, in Yola, were sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Spewing lies and gibberish has become the PDP’s obsessive preoccupation following its crushing defeat in the last presidential election. It is downright irresponsible for the PDP to continuously politicise serious matters of security and national importance for its vain and macabre humour. As an age-old party, this ceaseless display of egregious incivility in the conduct of its affairs is disgraceful and sad.”

The ruling party noted that the acts of terror or involvement in a terrorist plot were heinous crimes under the law and PDP could not continue to bandy allegations around without justification.

 Morka, however, said Atiku as a citizen of Nigeria deserved the fullest protection of the law. He added that the law enforcement authorities must protect and investigate any threat to his person, family or assets and prosecute offenders.

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