The United States (US) Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have revealed when they will release Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s criminal and immigration records to the public.
In a court document sighted by journalists, the FBI and US State Department cited ‘unusual circumstances’ for the inability to release the records to the public yet.
While reacting to a freedom of information request, the U.S. authorities said that even if they were to release the demanded records of the Nigerian president, it would be at least until January 2026 before they could do so.
News Verified gathered that a civil lawsuit has now been filed over the matter before Judge Beryl Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.
Tinubu’s Criminal Record On Demand
Before now, an American public disclosure activist, Aaron Greenspan, had filed a request to the FBI, State Department, Department of Treasury, and Drug Enforcement Administration, among federal and local agencies, seeking an urgent release of Tinubu’s immigration and criminal records.
News Verified gathered that the demand was made following Tinubu’s claims in court that he did not commit any crimes during his stay in the United States.
President Tinubu is also said to have asserted ownership of his identity, despite strong indications he might have changed names and education records in the past.
Recall that there have been a series of controversies over President Tinubu’s real identity.
Tinubu’s Contradictory Records
The former Governor of Lagos State’s educational records contain omissions and contradictions that are yet to be clear to the general public.
For instance, the Nigerian president had said under oath to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) while seeking to be Lagos governor in 1999 that he attended the prestigious University of Chicago.
The university has since disowned Tinubu. Another American school, Chicago State University, confirmed a Bola Tinubu attended the school but did not say whether it was the Nigerian president. Documents from the school showed that a person bearing Bola Tinubu, who attended the school in the 1970s, was a female.
Tinubu also stated under oath in 1999 that he attended primary and secondary schools in Lagos and Ibadan in the 1950s and 1960s, but he expunged those assertions from his latest INEC application form ahead of this year’s general elections in February. He did not explain why he removed the claims, although there was no evidence that the primary school he said he attended ever existed in Nigeria.
Recall that Tinubu was also named as a launderer of proceeds of drug trafficking in U.S. court documents in 1993. He reportedly forfeited $460,000 at the time.
The records formed a key part of an ongoing challenge to Mr Tinubu’s election as president of Nigeria before a tribunal hearing election petitions in Abuja. This prompted Mr Greenspan, who runs PlainSite, a website that holds files from American courts and institutions, to file multiple requests to U.S. authorities in possession of documents that could help clarify some of the crucial questions upsetting Nigerian minds.
The State Department is believed to have records of whether or not the person who applied for a U.S. visa and travelled as Bola Tinubu in the 1970s is the same person running Nigeria today.
However, the FBI is expected to throw more light on how Tinubu became involved in drugs in the U.S. and other criminal charges that he might have faced but which were not in public records.
“This office will not be able to respond within the 20 days provided by the statute due to unusual circumstances,” the State Department said in a May 15, 2023, letter to Mr Greenspan.
Previously on August 4, 2022, the FBI sent a message to Mr Greenspan, saying: “Please be advised that ‘unusual circumstances’ apply to the processing of your request.”
But on March 22, 2023, the FBI said it would try to release all documents relating to Tinubu in its possession, but not until January 2026 at the earliest. Other agencies, including the Department of Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, also said they wouldn’t release the documents on the same grounds.
The FBI also said Mr Greenspan “failed to demonstrate that the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government.”
However, the activist promptly responded by detailing how Tinubu’s drug forfeiture case in Chicago drew the most eyes to his organisation’s website over the past year. The website has over 15 million records.
All the agencies have now been summoned to appear in court to show course why records relating to a Nigerian president were deemed unusual and inconsequential to be released to the public.
On July 17, assistant U.S. attorney Jared Littman entered an appearance as the lawyer representing all the agencies and promptly requested a delay until August 28, 2023, to file a response to the lawsuit, which was instituted on June 12, 2023, the Peoples Gazette reported.