ALL Progressives Congress (APC) national leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu appears to have incurred the wrath of the powers that-be after the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opened a probe into his activities while he was Lagos State governor.
Asiwaju Tinubu was Lagos State governor between 1999 and 2007 and was one of the main forces behind the founding of the APC which was created in 2014 following the merger of his party the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressives Change. With the 2023 presidential elections looming, Asiwaju Tinubu’s supporters have already begun campaigning for him aggressively.
In what is seen as an attempt to checkmate Asiwaju Tinubu’s presidential ambition, this morning the EFCC has written to Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) asking for his asset declaration form when he was governor. Apparently, way back in November, the EFCC asked the CCB to supply it with details of Asiwaju Tinubu’s asset declaration documents as part of an ongoing probe.
This has led some political commentators to suggest that Asiwaju Tinubu could be arrested and prosecuted before 2023. However, many watchers believe proving anything against him will be difficult as Asiwaju Tinubu tucked his deals and assets in complex layers of financial manoeuvring.
What is surprising APC insiders is the aggressiveness with which the EFCC is pursuing Asiwaju Tinubu as the latest request, dated November 6, was a follow-up to previous demands. In the letter, the EFCC referred to its previous letter of September 4, 2020, and the CCB’s response of October 9, 2020, asking the bureau to supply outstanding requested information of Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu.
Things have taken a further twist after Abdulrasheed Bawa, the former head of the EFCC’s Lagos zonal office who handling the investigation into Asiwaju Tinubu’s case was confirmed as the national chairman of the agency last week. Some sources close to Asiwaju Tinubu said that he read about the probe in the EFCC’s official gazette and immediately sent word to President Buhari about it.
One source said: “Asiwaju Tinubu contacted the president some weeks ago to protest that his hands are clean of any dubious practices. He told the president that if the EFCC must proceed with its probe, then it has to do so with compassion and fear of God.”
“However, what Asiwaju really wants is for the investigation to stop because we all know it was instigated by Abubakar Malami to harass and persecute the party leader and destabilise him before 2023.
Another source close to Asiwaju Tinubu added: “We were together and I heard it when he said Malami wanted to become the kingmaker in the APC. He also said Malami does not have the intellectual strength to direct the affairs of a ruling party and will not be allowed to kill the party.”
In 2011 Asiwaju Tinubu was arraigned for asset declaration fraud but the matter was dismissed due to the failure of prosecutors to find enough evidence to substantiate their claim that he operated foreign bank accounts while governor. It is believed, however, that the EFCC has now found additional information using the same set of asset documents but with advanced layers of verification.
Nigeria has adopted a bank verification number regime and strengthened its financial intelligence departments since 2011, making it easier to uncover corrupt practices. Once EFCC source added that Asiwaju Tinubu’s alleged asset fraud is only an aspect of multiple counts to be instituted against him by the agency.
He added: “The EFCC has travelled a long distance from 2011 when Tinubu was first prosecuted. Now we are carrying out a tech-driven anti-corruption war.
“We have petitions from a group in Abuja that we should investigate the source of those bullion vans that were driven into his house in 2019. We are also investigating his use of several proxies to collude with governors in Lagos and siphon money from the state.”
In November, the EFCC Gazette published bank documents that showed how Asiwaju Tinubu’ Alpha Beta company was moving the questionable funds it received from Lagos State into other companies, including broadcaster TVC and Lagos metro bus providers. EFCC officials are confident that President Buhari would be reluctant to stand in the way of a criminal investigation.
Asiwaju Tinubu has long been considered untouchable because of the role he played in bringing President Buhari to power but his influence has waned since 2015. Last year, Asiwaju Tinubu opened a campaign office in Abuja but he has yet to publicly declare his presidential ambition.