Saturday, April 20, 2024

RECALL: Documents show Jonathan govt filed, withdrew criminal charges against Bola Tinubu for submitting fake academic claims to INEC in 1999

As the president braces a steep political price, Nigerians have asked how he managed to ride a well-documented pattern of constitutional violations to the nation’s highest office.

• October 10, 2023

As President Bola Tinubu braces the heaviest price yet for his fraudulent and contradictory political history, Nigerians have wondered how he managed to ride a well-documented pattern of constitutional violations to the nation’s highest office.

Besides the highly-publicised headache that Mr Tinubu faced when Gani Fawehinmi tried unsuccessfully to make him pay for lying habitually under oath to become governor in Lagos in 1999, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan also tried to send Mr Tinubu to jail on the strength of that late 90s perjury in January 2011 but abruptly backed down, according to copies of the federal information obtained by Peoples Gazette.

The Nigerian leader has come under drastic public humiliation in recent weeks after his main political rival Atiku Abubakar opened a legal battle that successfully exposed yet another case of forgery — this time in relation to the academic certificate Mr Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission to certify his eligibility to run for president.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar

Mr Abubakar has now submitted the evidence, obtained by way of a federal court subpoena in the United States, to the Nigerian Supreme Court. Since the evidence is coming late, Mr Abubakar’s lawyers trying to convince the court to accept it and nullify Mr Tinubu’s presidency as if he did not participate in the February 25, 2023, presidential election in the first place. Section 137 (1)(j) of the Nigerian Constitution (amended in 2010) specifically stated that no one would be legitimately elected president of Nigeria if the person “has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

If the push to enter the proof against Mr Tinubu is successful at the Supreme Court, the school has already disowned the certificate under oath, his administration could be the shortest elected government in the nation’s history at barely six months. 

But questions are also rife as to whether it should even have occurred in the first place, considering how Mr Tinubu’s family background and professional career have been largely shrouded in secrecy — where not entirely found to be fabricated. His penchant for falsehood was first brought to the attention of Nigerians in 1999, shortly after he was elected Lagos governor, by Nigerian human rights activist Mr Fawehinmi. Mr Fawehinmi found that Mr Tinubu lied under oath when he claimed he graduated from the prestigious University of Chicago in 1976 with a degree in economics.

Mr Tinubu had affirmed in an affidavit sworn before the Ikeja Division of High Court of Lagos State on December 29, 1998, that he attended St Paul, Aroloya, and Children Home School, Ibadan, leaving both in 1964. Subsequently, he listed attending Government College, Ibadan, from 1965 to 1968.

As part of the affidavit, Mr Tinubu said he attended Richard Daley College, Chicago, from 1969 to 1971. He said he obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago in 1976, having been enrolled in 1972.

After bagging a degree in economics from the University of Chicago, Mr Tinubu said he enrolled at Chicago State University in 1977, graduating in 1979, the affidavit showed. 

The Supreme Court of Nigeria
The Supreme Court of Nigeria

Further in the affidavit, Mr Tinubu said he became a certified public accountant in 1979. Subsequently, he worked as a financial consultant at Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins and Sells until 1986, when he joined Mobil Nigeria until 1992. He joined politics in 1992 and was elected senator for Lagos West on July 4, 1992.Mr Fawehinmi promptly sought a criminal investigation of Mr Tinubu by the police. By the time the dust was clear on the controversy, it was already established that Mr Tinubu had lied under oath about his primary, secondary and tertiary education. He was never anywhere close to being admitted, much less graduate from, the University of Chicago, one of the best in the world. He also lied about being a certified public accountant. 

The only school Mr Tinubu was able to hold on to was Chicago State University. Mr Fawehinmi’s attempt to make the police investigate and charge Mr Tinubu failed at the Nigerian Supreme Court, where justices ruled that Mr Tinubu was entitled to constitutional immunity as a sitting governor in line with Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution.

As part of the humiliation at the time, the GCI Old Students Association disowned Mr Tinubu and cancelled a dinner scheduled in his honour after it was discovered that he was never a student at the elite high school in the country’s largest city. 

Still, the Supreme Court said an investigation into Mr Tinubu could continue for potential criminal prosecution after he had left office, but he should not be arrested or even called in for questioning while in office.
“This is not intended to grant him immunity forever from full criminal investigation or any criminal proceedings in respect of any offence allegedly committed by him,” the court said in the May 10, 2002, judgement of a seven-member panel.

Mr Tinubu left office as governor in 2007, but he was never charged for his crimes until 2011, when the case was quietly exhumed by former attorney-general Bello Adoke.

Bello Adoke
Bello Adoke

Court filings obtained by The Gazette showed that Mr Jonathan filed the matter before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on January 12, 2011, at 1:27 p.m., accusing Mr Tinubu of lying under oath to have attended Government College, Ibadan, between 1962 and 1965, in his INEC CF001 governorship form.

The two-count indictment included an accusation that Mr Tinubu made “a false statement on oath to wit: you stated on the said Form CF 001 that you attended Government College, Ibadan between 1962 and 1965 both dates inclusive whereas in truth you did not attend the said school within the stated period and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 191 of the Criminal Code Cap 77 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 as retained in section 191 Cap C38 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”

But less than two weeks later, on January 25, 2011, Mr Adoke asked the court to strike out the matter, saying he was filing the charges in another court, a claim that turned out false since no fresh charges before the administration ended on May 29, 2015, about 4.5 years later.

The case and its withdrawal were first disclosed to Sahara Reporters in December 2014, with the outlet saying Mr Tinubu may have cut a deal to endorse Mr Jonathan’s 2011 candidacy in order to avoid being sent to jail, which could’ve imperilled his future political aspirations. The Gazette has now obtained the documents showing how the case was filed and withdrawn by the Jonathan administration.

Mr Adoke told Judge Ibrahim Auta, who retired as chief judge of the Federal High Court in 2017, that he was refiling in another court in the interest of justice. 

When reached by The Gazette about why he let Mr Tinubu walk, Mr Adoke initially categorically denied that any charges were filed, saying: “I can confirm to you very categorically that no such filing ever took place.”

But when informed of the specifics of the court documents, Mr Adoke said the charges were withdrawn because he did not authorise them to be filed in the first place. 

“The instructions, if any, did not emanate from me,” he said. “Hence the withdrawal.”

He also insisted that Mr Jonathan did not approve the case to be filed, saying he hoped his response would sufficiently lay the matter to rest.

“For the avoidance of doubt, President Jonathan never authorised me to file charges against President Tinubu, and neither did I authorise same,” the former attorney-general said. “I hope this clarifies it all. Thank you.”

Despite being lifelong political adversaries, Mr Tinubu suddenly backed Mr Jonathan for the presidency in 2011, effectively throwing his own party’s candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, under the bus. Why Mr Tinubu backed Mr Jonathan in that election was never publicly explained by either of them. Spokespersons for Messrs Jonathan and Tinubu did not return our queries on the 2011 charges. 

Nuhu Ribadu, National Security Adviser (Credit: NTA)
Nuhu Ribadu, National Security Adviser (Credit: NTA)

As Mr Tinubu’s falsehood grips the country again, his aides and supporters have launched a tirade against Mr Abubakar, arguing Mr Tinubu could manufacture his CSU certificate —- which they dubbed a ceremonial document —- using a purported third-party vendor, even if such imaginary vendor was not licensed by CSU to do so.

They asserted that the transcript was what was crucial to show Mr Tinubu indeed attended the school as claimed and other details were irrelevant.

“One thing Nigerians need to know is that in that certificate, because it is ceremonial, you even have the right to redesign it to your own taste,” Elancha Dominic, leader of Asiwaju Mandate Guard, a political movement backing Mr Tinubu, said on AIT last week. “That is the truth. What is important is the transcript.” 

Aviation minister Festus Keyamo, who had pushed for Mr Tinubu to be jailed for perjury in the early aughts, tweeted a similar argument on Monday, saying Mr Abubakar must first find the vendor his principal patronised for the certificate he submitted to  INEC to prove it a forgery. The argument, coming from a senior lawyer, was widely ridiculed by Nigerians, who said it showed how beleaguered and senseless the administration had become.

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