Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, on Monday received a temporary relief after a federal judge in the United States denied a request for an urgent release of the Nigerian leader’s confidential records compiled by American law enforcement authorities.
KOKO TV NG had on Monday reported that the US court would give its position regarding the motion filed by Tinubu to intervene in an emergency motion filed on Friday at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking the release of records related to his residence in the country.
An IT consultant, Aaron Greenspan on July 21, 2022, filed a Freedom of Information request asking the country’s agencies to release Tinubu’s records. Greenspan filed an emergency motion on Friday, October 20, seeking the immediate release of the records.
Greenspan’s motion on October 20 urged Judge Beryl Howell to quickly order the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department and other U.S. bodies to immediately turn over records they scheduled for release before the end of October.
“Plaintiff’s emergency motion for a hearing to compel immediate document production is denied,” Ms Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington D.C. ruled on Monday night. “No hearing to determine the merits of this motion is necessary.”
People’s Gazette reports that Greenspan, a transparency activist running Plainsite, filed the emergency request after Tinubu suddenly deployed lawyers to fight against the release, saying it would violate his privacy, among other statutory rights.
Greenspan said Tinubu was trying to slow-walk the release of the documents, which the agencies had previously stipulated would be released in batches effective October ending, to foreclose any impact the disclosures may have on the ongoing election dispute at the Nigerian Supreme Court. Seven justices had earlier on Monday heard arguments from Tinubu’s lawyers, as well as lawyers for Atiku Abubakar, the president’s main challenger,
The defendants in the suit are the Executive Office for US Attorneys, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Tinubu subsequently filed a motion to intervene or be an intervenor in the case.
He had filed an application before the court to stop the country’s agencies from releasing records related to his residence in the country.
The motion to intervene in the case between Aaron Greenspan (Plaintiff) and Executive Office for US Attorneys, et al. (Defendants) with Civil Action No. 23-1816 (BAH), reads, “Bola A. Tinubu moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, to intervene in this action because Plaintiff seeks production of Mr.
Tinubu’s confidential tax record, which the Internal Revenue Service is prohibited from disclosing by federal law, and documents from federal law enforcement agencies that fall within the Privacy Act or exceptions to FOIA and should not be disclosed.
Greenspan has followed political controversies in Nigeria since his website was besieged by Nigerians looking for information about the 1993 case that saw Tinubu forfeit over $460,000 to the U.S. government after being caught laundering proceeds of narcotics trafficking in Chicago.
The records Greenspan seeks could potentially help provide clarity around Tinubu’s real identity, especially the name under which he first travelled to the United States decades ago. The Nigerian president has been known to use clashing identities in the past.
But the judge, Howell, in her decision, said Greenspan did not adequately justify his request for an urgent hearing on his motion for expedited release of records, especially against the need to protect Tinubu’s interest.
“Plaintiff has not made any representation to the court that the balance of equities tips in his favour or that the granting of his motion would further the public interest,” Ms Howell said. “Given that the FOIA request is for records that, if any exist, may be of a highly sensitive and private nature and that the subject of those documents, Bola A. Tinubu, has had no opportunity to protect his privacy interests in any such records, the balance of equities militates strongly in favour of denying this emergency motion.”
The judge also approved Tinubu’s request to allow his lawyer, Christopher Carmichael, to appear in the case, although she has yet to rule on the president’s motion to intervene in the matter.
Earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice, represented by Matthew Graves, had said the government would not be taking any position as to whether Tinubu should join the case or not.
“On behalf of defendants, the undersigned counsel does not take a position as to whether the court should grant Bola Tinubu’s motion to intervene,” Graves said.
“Mr. Tinubu should be allowed to intervene because he has a direct interest in the records sought, his interests are not fully represented or protected by Defendants, and his interests will be adversely affected if he is not permitted to intervene.”
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