By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
There has been tension in the political camp of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, since documents linking him to alleged drug trafficking and money-laundering crimes in the U.S. resurfaced recently.
A United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois released fresh documents on Tinubu’s encounter with American authorities over allegations of narcotics trafficking and money laundering.
Since then, the APC presidential candidate has come under fire from both the opposition and concerned Nigerians who believe he should open up on the issue and clear the air about his past dealings in the U.S. that seem to have been haunting him since 1993 through his time as governor of Lagos State.
But Tinubu has remained silent over the matter, giving many Nigerians the impression that the allegations may be true, a development his campaign council is no longer comfortable with, given the demarketing slur it is casting on their presidential candidate’s image.
Although their spokesman, Festus Keyamo, has tried to save Tinubu’s image by claiming that the $460,000 the APC presidential candidate forfeited in the U.S. was the total sum of accumulated taxes linked to his ten bank accounts and not related to drug-trafficking and money laundering crimes, the public as well as the opposition, seem not to be convinced by Keyamo’s explanation.
For instance, Tony Odeh, a Port Harcourt-based public affairs analyst, told our correspondent on Friday that Keyamo’s attempt to exonerate Tinubu of the allegation with the tax story will not fly.
Odeh said: “I heard Festus Keyamo trying to defend Tinubu by saying that the $460,000 he forfeited to the U.S. government was tax. I don’t believe that because it sounded very shallow to me. Did he forget that Nigerians were already aware of this case before now? Even when Tinubu was governor, this matter and the false certificate issue resurfaced, and they have been resurfacing from time to time. The U.S. court that released the documents didn’t say the money was taxed. The report linked it to his alleged dealings in narcotics and money laundering. Keyamo should have looked for a more convincing explanation to give.
“For example, it made more sense when he said that the report’s release at this particular time was political and could have been masterminded by political rivals. He specifically accused the PDP, and that’s okay, and it’s politics and the PDP has responded. But the fact remains that Nigerians don’t believe that Tinubu is innocent as claimed in the U.S. Court’s report.”
Tinubu had, in his application to stand for election, informed INEC that he had no criminal convictions.
However, Nigerians insist that the APC presidential candidate should come clean on his involvement in the alleged drug trafficking and money laundering case, which saw him forfeit up to $460,000 to the U.S. authorities in 1993.
The 56-page document released by the district court’s headquarters in Chicago, USA, on August 10 this year, indicated that Tinubu and two others named K.O. Tinubu and Alhaji Mogati were involved in banking proceeds of illicit drugs and money laundering with Heritage Bank and Citibank.
The U.S. government had, in July 1993, sought forfeiture of proceeds of narcotics Tinubu was accused of laundering. The matter was resolved in a compromise between the Tinubus and the U.S. authorities, with the Tinubus being asked to keep the money in the Heritage Bank account while the $460,000 in the Citibank account was forfeited.
A federal judge subsequently dismissed the matter on September 21, 1993, which effectively prevented the matter from being prosecuted by all parties.
Meanwhile, the resurgence of the matter through the recent release of the U.S. district court’s report has continued to spark a heated exchange of words between Tinubu’s party, the APC and the opposition PDP, which has Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate.