The intrigues trailing the race for the presidency assumed a dangerous twist, yesterday, as the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, called for the arrest and disqualification of each other over allegations of graft.
Tinubu threw the first punch when he asked security agencies in the country to invite, arrest, interrogate and prosecute Alhaji Atiku Abubakar over what he described as #AtikuGate.
Citing a video clip made by one Michael Achimugu, said to be a former aide of the PDP standard bearer, Tinubu said Atiku as vice president between 1999 and 2007, colluded with his then boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to operate an illegal account tagged, “Special Purpose Vehicles” SPVs.
He accused the PDP-led administration between 1999 and 2007 of running a criminal enterprise, describing the era as the “SPV Years.”
Responding in kind, Atiku and the PDP described Tinubu as a convict, who should not be in the presidential race, adding that Tinubu’s alleged $460,000 drug money forfeiture was evidence of a crime.
Minister of State, Labour and Employment; and Chief Spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council PCC, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, had forwarded a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, seeking arrest and prosecution of Atiku.
In the petition filed as a “Concerned Nigerian”, Keyamo gave a 72-hour ultimatum to the anti-graft agencies to “arrest/invite, interrogate and prosecute one Alhaji Atiku Abubakar”, failing which he said he would approach the courts to compel the agencies to act.
Noting that Atiku does not enjoy immunity simply because he is a presidential candidate, the APC candidate asked the former vice president to apologize and renounce his ambition.
He, however, said he would, in the coming days, approach the courts to seek Atiku’s disqualification from the presidential race.
According to him, Atiku is not God and does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, and urged security agencies not to be reluctant in arresting him simply because he is vying for president.
He said former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, was jailed for the offenses of paying state money into a company, Marine Float, linked to Atiku, insisting that the former vice-president must be arrested.
Tinubu spoke in Abuja at the PCC headquarters in Abuja yesterday through the full complement of his media directorate.
While the text of a prepared speech was read by Keyamo, he was flanked by the Special Adviser, Media, Communications and Public Affairs at the PCC, Mr. Dele Alake; Director, Media and Publicity, Mr. Bayo Onanuga; Director, Special Media Projects/New Media, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode; and, Director, Strategic Communications, Alhaji Idris Mohammed.
The PCC queried the sources of wealth of both Obasanjo and Atiku, especially with regards to building their individual private universities.
On whether former President Obasanjo should equally be arrested, the PCC said the onus was on the security agencies to open investigations into the issue and arrest anyone found wanting, no matter how highly placed.
Atiku’s alleged 4 offences
While the council played a two-minute recorded voice call purported to be a conversation between Messrs Achimugu and Atiku, it listed four offences allegedly committed by the former vice president.
The alleged offences are a Breach of the Code of Conduct Act, Money Laundering, Criminal Breach of Trust and Conspiracy.
According to the PCC, Atiku may have gone against the provisions of Sections 5, 10, 13 & 17 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act; Section 18 (2) of the Money Laundering (Prevention And Prohibition Act), 2022; Section 311 of the Penal Code Law and Section 96 (1) of the Penal Code Act In Nigeria.
The council noted that law enforcement agencies may be reluctant to act simply because of the perception of persecution of a presidential candidate that the action may evoke.
However, it said facts are sacred and that the facts so far presented to the world clearly indicate that Atiku Abubakar has a case to answer.
“In other climes when such serious allegations arose in the middle of campaigns, the law-enforcement agencies acted decisively. You may recall that, in 2016, in the middle of campaigns for the exalted office of the Presidency of the United States, the FBI opened investigations into allegations of misuse of private emails against Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.
“In fact, the case was referred to the Justice Department for likely prosecution few weeks to the actual voting. Though she was later cleared, it bears restating that a sane and dispassionate system never allowed such side talks to dissuade or distract them from initiating a process of investigation. It is the minimum expected in a constitutional democracy. That is what we call on the authorities to do in the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Marine Float Account
“The issue of the Marine Float Account is not new to Nigerians. In the voice note, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar can be heard boasting that the issue of that account was thoroughly investigated by EFCC.
“However, we note that in 2006, at the height of his public quarrel with Obasanjo, the same PDP officially asked Atiku Abubakar to refund N500 million taken from that account.
“In the circumstance, since the nation now knows that the Marine Float Account and other similar accounts were ‘SPV’ accounts, it follows that all payments made into that account were monies stolen from public coffers. Therefore, we call on all security agencies to recover all monies withdrawn from that account by anyone for that matter.
“In the light of these very grave revelations, we call on Atiku Abubakar to immediately tender an unreserved apology to the Nigerian people and step down from the Presidential race forthwith, whilst handing himself over to the law enforcement agencies.
“Following these revelations, it becomes clear that Atiku Abubakar has absolutely nothing to campaign on again as the period of 1999-2007 that he always relies on can now be described by Nigerians as the ‘SPV years’ when they ran Nigeria aground.
“That whilst President Obasanjo and Atiku deprived the good people of Lagos State of their Local Government monthly allocations even after the Supreme Court ordered the release of the funds, they were busy using the SPV for other things.
“That the real, dark reason for the seemingly irreconcilable quarrel between President Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar is disagreement over the ‘SPV’ accounts at that time.
“We call on all well-meaning Nigerians and the law-enforcement agencies to protect Mr Michael Achimugu, who has blown this whistle on Atiku Abubakar. No harm must befall him or members of his family.
“We shall hold Atiku Abubakar responsible if anything befalls this patriotic Nigerian or members of his family. We also encourage him to reveal to Nigerians those ‘earth-shaking’ revelations he is withholding for the sake of this nation and the future of our children.
“It is our firm belief that the judiciary is the last hope for the hopeless. In this case, the judiciary will not be quiet as we shall clearly take steps in the next few days to initiate a judicial process seeking the outright disqualification of Atiku Abubakar from the race based on these facts. He is clearly ethically challenged, morally damaged for the highest office of the land”, the council added.
Arrest, question Tinubu for treason, PDP tells security agencies
Countering, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign has demanded the immediate arrest and questioning of Tinubu for his alleged formation of a uniformed gang of thugs code-named “Jagaban Army” for the sole purpose of committing an electoral heist.
The spokesman of the campaign, Kola Ologbondiyan, said this in a statement, in Abuja, on Monday.
Ologbondiyan described the formation of the uniformed squad by the All Progressives Congress (APC) code-named “Jagaban Army” as “a treasonable act and calls for the arrest and questioning of the APC Presidential Candidate, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
He further said: “The Jagaban Army, which is apparently set up to disrupt the 2023 general elections and raid polling units for votes on behalf of APC Presidential candidate, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is a direct affront to the Nigeria Armed Forces and other security agencies as well as an assault on the sovereignty of our nation.
“It is reprehensible that Tinubu can create a rogue force just for the purposes of undermining the electoral and security arrangements of our nation.
‘’Our Campaign holds that this nefarious act of the APC Tinubu/Shettima Campaign lend credence to the position of the PDP and well-meaning Nigerians that Tinubu, as well as his rank and file, have set out to make our nation ungovernable and thereafter disrupt the 2023 Presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023, using his army of ‘Jagabandits’.
“The notion of Jagaban Army is a ploy to bring hoodlums, thugs and gangsters together under the cover of the APC and turned them into an official militia that will be used to unleash mayhem on the day of the election.
“This reckless anti-democratic plot by the ‘Jagabandits’ must also be condemned by all lovers of democracy in Nigeria and across the world over.
“We call on the security agencies to save the lives of Nigerians and protect our electoral process by immediately going after this dangerous formation, arresting those behind this design and saving our nation from electoral violence.
“Our campaign counsels Tinubu to note that his Presidential ambition is not a do-or-die affair and that he should not set the nation ablaze just because Nigerians have rejected him and his party, the APC for their mass failures.”
Tinubu’s $460,000 drug money forfeiture evidence of a crime —PDP
In like manner, the PDP dismissed Tinubu’s calls and allegations against Atiku as “simulated allegations” and attempts to divert public attention from the issues affecting Nigerians.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Debo Ologunagba, in a statement said: “It is indeed ironic that an embattled Tinubu, who is beleaguered by uncountable cases of fraudulent activities, including perjury, forgery, treasury looting, corruption and narcotic-related conviction can attempt to impugn on the unimpeachable integrity of the PDP Presidential Candidate.
“For clarity and for the interest of Nigerians, it is on record that Atiku Abubakar is one of the most investigated public officials in this country. It is also on record that in all the investigations undertaken over him and his affairs, Atiku Abubakar was never found culpable in any of the allegations.
“In contrast, however, the APC Presidential Candidate has a litany of confirmed legal impediments on very grave issues including those that border on international crime, namely; trafficking in narcotics and taking proceeds of narcotics.
“In the recent case revealed in the United States of America, it is on record that the APC Presidential Candidate forfeited the sum of $460,000 which was confirmed and found to be proceeds of trafficking in narcotics; an international crime for which Nigeria, being a signatory to International Convention on trafficking in narcotics is obliged to enforce.
“The effect of the conviction and forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 by Asiwaju Tinubu confirms that he is ineligible and not qualified to contest for the Office of the President of Nigeria as required by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
The PDP Spokesman who is a lawyer by training further said: “For clarity, Section 137 (1) (d) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that
1) “A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if…
“(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 dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or for any 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”.
“Having been convicted, sentenced and fined for narcotic trafficking in a criminal suit filed pursuant to the United States Criminal Code, Asiwaju Tinubu cannot by virtue of Section 137 (1)(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) seek office as President of Nigeria.
“The APC Presidential Candidate has not come out to deny the conviction and forfeiture or show evidence of any attempt by him to challenge or appeal the judgment, apparently believing that it will slide with time.
“Asiwaju Tinubu ought to know that time does not run against the State in a criminal matter!
“He should therefore withdraw from the Presidential race having been found ineligible and not qualified to run or to contest for the Office of the President of Nigeria under the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution