FORMER Lagos State Governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, got a reprieve on Wednesday as the Code of Conduct Tribunal dismissed allegations of illegal operation of foreign bank accounts held in his name
while he was the governor.
The tribunal quashed the three-count charge preferred against him by the Federal Government relating to the alleged offence on the score that it was defective.
Tinubu was arraigned at the tribunal for allegedly operating 16 foreign bank accounts between 1999 and 2007 during his tenure as governor of Lagos State. On Mr. Tinubu’s behalf, his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), erected legal impediment vide a preliminary objection against the government’s bid to bring him to justice on a charge he said was merely persecutory and incompetent.
Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar, agreed with Olanipekun that the charges were “indeed defective and incompetent.” Accordingly, the tribunal quashed the entire amended charges after holding that they did not establish a prima facie case against the accused person.
In reaching that decision, the tribunal faulted the amended charge to the effect that it was not brought properly before the tribunal.
It said: “The amended charge was not properly brought before us. It was supposed to be subjected to our analysis to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been established against the accused person.
“The leave which the tribunal gave for the preferring of charges against the accused person only relates to the original one-count charge which has since been withdrawn but not the present amended charge.
“It amounted to an ambush against the accused person and the court and where a court discovered that the process has been abused, the proper order to make is to dismiss the case. The charge here is an abuse and it is hereby dismissed.”
The tribunal continued: “No proof of evidence was attached to the amended charge or summary of affidavit evidence. How on earth will the tribunal determine whether a prima facie case has been established against the accused person?
“The amended charge did not adduce evidence that the accused has been operating the foreign accounts by proxies or trustees but that he personally operates the accounts. It is the law that the arguments of counsel no matter how brilliant cannot take the place of pleadings.
“In the circumstances, I hold that no prima facie case has been made against the accused person. The non-filling of affidavit evidence affects the entire three-count charge and it is hereby quashed and the accused person is discharged.”
Tinubu’s political party, the Action Congress of Nigeria leader described the verdict as a vindication of his claim that it was all persecution.
After the verdict, Tinubu, the National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), described the whole trial as a waste of public fund aimed at tarnishing his image.
Tinubu, thanked lawyers, supporters and the tribunal for its courage, said: “How many years since I left office? How many years has it taken them to do investigations to verify all the details instead of tarnishing the image I built professionally over the years?
“After office, there is life. After public office, there must be opportunities to do other jobs, to enter into business partnership or whatever I chose to do. They have ruined many of that in the process. I salute the courage of the tribunal. They showed that in this country if you have many like them who would uphold the value of justice and not determine it by influence of corruption, the judiciary would indeed be the last hope of the common man.
“In fact, the Attorney General of the Federation shouldn’t have taken this case to court. Who is paying the bill of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Alex Izinyon? The public should ask questions.”
In a statement by Tinubu media office, the former governor also said: I thank God for today and for this judgment in my favour. Today’s verdict shows there is still hope for this country. That the judiciary can still dispense justice with judges on the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). They are courageous judges who dispensed justice without fear or favour.
“I thank my legal team, led by the indefatigable Wole Olanipekun, SAN, for their brilliant work. I am happy this has come to an end. The attempt to rubbish my name based on unsubstantiated charges, as I said, would fail. After my time in political office, I should enjoy my rights of going into personal business.
“I will however take appropriate actions after consultations with my team because my reputation was smeared and the lives of my wife and daughters were disrupted. In fact, my daughter’s account with just £3,500 was closed in London because of these unproven allegations: a young girl and her banking transactions stopped.
“Today’s judgment opens a new chapter in the dispensation of justice for our country. No one should ever be judged guilty of flimsy charges again”.
The Lagos State chapter of the ACN has applauded the tribunal for dismissing the charges brought up against Tinubu. The party says that by that ruling, the tribunal has demonstrated that justice is still obtainable even in an atmosphere of petty politics and funny contrivances.
In a statement in Lagos by the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Joe Igbokwe, the party said the court ruling was a vindication of its National Leader whose fault was that he was seen as a threat to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s desire to hold the country hostage till eternity. The party said that the ACN would remain undaunted in its mission to end the bad rule of the PDP despite the scheming of the party.
Also, Governors Babatunde Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola and Kayode Fayemi yesterday hailed the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), for quashing charges against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Fashola, who spoke with reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos on arrival from Abuja, said the acquittal has once again proved that the judiciary is always on the side of the people.
The governor said: “I think the greater benefit here is for the Nigerian people that there is still the capacity for the judiciary to independently assess matters brought before it in a way to ensure that the rights of citizens are not trampled upon.
“One of the findings that the tribunal made was that there seems to be a persistence of harassing the applicant with a series of processes, charges and this is not sustainable in a constitutional democracy. Of course, you will also see that the court was particularly assisted by counsel who appeared on both side.”
Aregbesola said: “The way the tribunal carried out an in-depth and dispassionate analysis of the case has shown that the Nigerian judiciary could be trusted to do justice to all, no matter the issue.
“I salute the men of courage who delivered this landmark ruling that has shown the green light that Nigerians should trust the judiciary to do it right all the time.
“I want to say that the ruling marked a new era when citizens can be rest assured that justice would flow from the Temple of Justice without fear or favour.”
Fayemi, who had earlier described the trial of the ACN leader as “judicial lynching” which may not be unconnected with the 2015 elections, said, in a statement, that the ruling has shown clearly that the case had no basis.
The governor said he had always known Tinubu as a true democrat who has utmost regard for the rule of law, hence would not do anything that will run foul of the law of the land.
“It is absolutely impossible to build something on nothing, hence I am not surprised that the entire case has collapsed like a pack of cards, because really, there was no basis for the trial.”
Fayemi, who said the ruling has vindicated the former Lagos Governor, said the development is a further proof that it is still possible to serve in Government and leave a good name.
He said that there is still need for a comprehensive review of some of the laws of the land that appear primitive.