Note: this article was originally published in November, 2022
According to a Tuesday report by local Nigerian press People’s Gazette, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has released a document detailing Bola Tinubu’s indictment in a drug trafficking and money laundering case in Chicago from 1993.
Nigerian youths have since taken to social media to lambast the aspiring president, with the hashtag #TinubutheDrugDealer trending for the past day.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is one of the foremost presidential candidates, and the candidate of the current ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC), in Nigeria’s upcoming elections.
Tinubu had earlier informed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his application for the election that he had no prior criminal convictions.
The case had been long rumoured even before Tinubu declared his intentions to run for the presidency, but denied many times, at times ignored, or downplayed by him and his supporters alike.
Nonetheless, several Nigerians have refused to let the matter go. Journalist David Hundeyin wrote an exposé that sparked immense curiosity around the case in July.
The recently released 58-page US court document revealed that funds, totalling about a million dollars, held in multiple Citibank and First Heritage Bank accounts belonging to Bola Tinubu were seized due to their connection with criminal activity.
A man called Abiodun Agbele sold white heroin to an undercover FBI agent on November 28,1990. During the investigation that followed Agbele’s arrest, it was discovered that since 1988, Adeboyega Mueez Akande had operated a cartel which distributed the drug and deposited the proceeds used for money laundering in Tinubu’s accounts.
In a settlement between Tinubu and the US authorities in July, the funds in the Citibank account ($460,000) were forfeited while Tinubu was allowed to keep the money in the First Heritage Bank accounts.
A US federal judge later dismissed the case with prejudice on September 21, pre-empting the case from being tried again by all parties involved.
The case seems to have had no consequence on Tinubu’s political career so far.
At the time of the case, Tinubu represented Lagos West Constituency as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
6 years later, he went on to become the governor of Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial capital, serving for 2 administrative terms (8 years). Before he assumed the gubernatorial position for the second term in 2003, the case was dug up again and eventually buried by his campaign team. A correspondence between the then Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun and the US consulate revealed that Tinubu had not been convicted of any crimes in the US.
Over the years, some lawyers have called for Tinubu to be held accountable for the case in Nigerian courts too.
One such lawyer, Kalu Kalu Agu even petitioned for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (EFCC) to launch action against Tinubu before the elections in February. If the agencies refuse to launch action, Agu will compel them to do so through a judicial order of mandamus.
Members of Tinubu’s campaign have once again denied the allegations of him being a “drug-lord”, describing it as hogwash and a “campaign of calumny”.
In an interview with local press on Wednesday, Festus Keyamo, the spokesman for the APC presidential campaign council, even claimed that the seized funds were tax proceeds rather than alleged drug proceeds.
The pressing question is whether the Nigerian electorate will consider these allegations while voting their next president, or will once again let Tinubu rule unchecked – this time, on the ultimate national seat.