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Friday, September 9, 2011

2007 presidential poll: Yar’Adua bought judgment for $57m -WikiLeaks

A glimpse of what may have led to the split decision victory that confirmed the late Umaru Yar’Adua as winner of the 2007 presidential election emerged yesterday from the latest dispatches of WikiLeaks.

Latest US diplomatic cable reports leaked by the wire spy suggests that the Yar’Adua team may have coughed out a whopping $57 million to procure a favourable judgment.
It further alleged that the judgment may have actually been written in the Presidency and handed to the jurists to read to the public. A named minister was said to have done the writing.
However, this claim is sharply at variance with an earlier dispatch from the same source which confirmed how resolute and incorruptible the leadership of the Supreme Court at that in time was, having refused all manner of inducements from the presidency.

It is, therefore, inconsistent that the same judiciary, which refused to stop Atiku in the build up to the election, would now turn around to accept bribe to uphold Yar’Adua’s election.
However, the controversial report, which claimed to be quoting a former Board of Trustee (BoT) member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also claimed that the presidency directed that some of the bribe money be handed to top military chiefs as well. But it did not say if it was eventually given.
The dispatch reads in part:

A founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and PDP Board of Trustees member, but also a strong critic of the party’s current ruling group, alleged that President Yar’Adua directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to divert $57 million to bribe some justices to uphold his April 2007 election.
The informant claimed that, as of February 18, some of the election tribunal justices were privately signaling an intention to overturn Yar’Adua’s election, and a minister (and not the justices) in fact drafted the judgment. The informant also asserted that a Supreme Court Justice told him February 29 the Supreme Court would rule to overturn Yar’Adua’s election since it regarded the election as massively rigged and the Tribunal’s judgment “embarrassing and pathetic.” The PDP chieftain described the March 8 PDP Convention as a battle of wits between Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, to determine who would emerge as having greater influence within the PDP.

Should Obasanjo’s choice, Sam Egwu, emerge the PDP National Chair, it would indicate not only that the PDP remains firmly within Obasanjo’s grip, but also that Yar’Adua is a “nobody” within the party.
The source also believed Yar’Adua may possibly choose former Senate President Pius Anyim for National Chair. He said Yar’Adua has authorized the disbursement of $3 million to be dispatched across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones to forestall the possibility of Egwu emerging the victor. The squealer also told PolOff that Yar’Adua had met with PDP governors March 3 and would again meet with them March 7, to pressure them to vote against Egwu.

The source decried Yar’Adua as a “ruthless, cunning” individual who has done nothing for the Nigerian people since he took office last May. While the squealer’s antipathy for Obasanjo is well-known, he averred that Yar’Adua was even more “dangerous” and “corrupt” than Obasanjo, and suggested that First Lady Turai Yar’Adua, at the possible behest of President Yar’Adua, controlled access to the President and did it well. Moreover, the PDP chieftain confided that in mid-January discussions in Paris, he advised former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida to remain outside Nigeria and not attempt a political comeback since he lacked any significant base of support either within the PDP or the military.

The source claimed that President Yar’Adua instructed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), on February 20 to release $57 million to a minister. In turn, the informant noted, the minister would disburse the funds among top judges and military chiefs. As of February 18, three justices had declared privately an intention to overturn Yar’Adua’s election, contending the election was massively rigged and flawed. As well, the PDP chieftain alleged the Tribunal judgment had been written by the minister from North Central zone. (Comment: While we have maintained that the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act necessarily make it difficult for any petitioner to prove that electoral malfeasance “substantially” affected the outcome of elections in 2/3 of Nigeria’s 36 states, and that that meant a judgment against Yar’Adua’s election was unlikely, this is the first allegation we have heard of Yar’Adua directly interfering in the Presidential Election Tribunal process. End Comment.)

The informant confided that a Supreme Court justice told him over a private lunch February 29 that the Supreme Court will overrule the tribunal’s verdict to uphold Yar’Adua’s April 2007 election since, according to the jurist, the tribunal’s judgment was “embarrassing and pathetic.” In such an eventuality, the informant stated, the Constitution may be interpreted to suggest that the Senate President would take over as interim president for a period of no more than 90 days. The squealer told PolOff that the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and Action Congress have signaled privately that they will not support this reading of the Constitution, particularly if Obasanjo-loyalist and current Senate President David Mark’s (PDP) election is upheld at the Court of Appeal.

(The Benue State Election Tribunal overturned Mark’s election February 23, ordering elections in two local government areas (LGAs) to be re-run. Mark’s opponent Usman Abubakar (ANPP) filed a counter-appeal to Mark’s appeal March 3, petitioning the court to declare Abubakar the victor since he had received the greater number of votes across seven LGAs (See Ref A).)

Note: PolOffs witnessed February 26 at the Presidential Election Tribunal that both the minister from North Central zone and a son of one of the justices walked through to chambers to meet with the justices. Under law, however, justices must be sequestered during deliberation and especially prior to delivering a judgment. A Reuters foreign correspondent resident in Abuja told PolOff March 2 that a source inside the Villa had read the judgment verbatim to the correspondent February 25 (a day before the actual ruling was delivered). An Adviser to General Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP), told PolOff February 28 the General had received information from contacts within the Villa on February 24 that the Tribunal would uphold the election.

...Kutigi rejected N600m bribe to stop Atiku
Fresh dispatches from WikiLeaks have revealed how the Obasanjo presidency in the build up to the 2007 presidential election, tried to compromise the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, in its desperation to stop Atiku Abubakar from contesting the election.
According to the latest postings on the raging WikiLeaks expose, the Obasanjo presidency voted as much as N600 million to bribe the now retired eminent jurist.
Incidentally, Kutigi was said to have rejected all, including a later offer to nominate his son for federal appointment.

According to the WikiLeaks cable believed to have emanated from the US Embassy, there was serious danger that the bribe offers would colour the outcome of the myriad of “lawsuits brought by President (Olusegun) Obasanjo and Vice president Atiku (Abubakar) in their political battle,” as the former desperately tried to stop the latter from standing election.
The dispatch noted that a controversial former senior special assistant to Obasanjo initially offered a bribe of N200 million to Kutigi during a private visit to the then CJN but that the jurist walked both the SSA and the equally controversial Anambra billionaire businessman who came with him, out of his office.
According to the unconfirmed WikiLeaks report, the presidency again tried to get the jurist to bend the law through a traditional ruler whom both the presidency and the jurist had enormous respect for. This time, the bribe money was upped to N400 million, but again, Kutigi turned it down and proceeded to do the right thing.

The report reads in part:
In the upcoming weeks, the mood of the Supreme Court may well be an important factor in determining how many of the recently concluded “elections” stand. In the past three weeks, court rulings on the myriad lawsuits brought by President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku over the political battle between the two top elected leaders may provide an indication of its future direction. In the two biggest cases, one determining whether the National Electoral Commission (INEC) had the right to disqualify candidates, and the second on the validity of the hastily convened Administrative Panel to indict Atiku, the court came out against the use of the Presidency’s powers to manipulate the electoral environment. And Chief Justice Kutigi, in establishing the elections tribunals several weeks ago, stressed to the judges selected for the panels the importance of dealing with cases quickly.

He also warned the electoral tribunal judges against being influenced by bribery and political pressure, stating that those who succumbed could be dealt with through the National Judicial Council, and those found wanting could be removed from their positions.

Kutigi appears to be reacting strongly to several credibly reported attempts to sideline him or to co-opt him for political purposes. A member of the Chief Justice’s staff told PolCouns that the Presidency had attempted to bribe Kutigi twice before the elections. In the first case, it contacted Kutigi to offer CJN’s son an appointment as a Federal judge. Kutigi is said to have demurred, saying that he wanted nothing that might be seen as favoritism and was concerned that his son should be appointed in the future on his own merits. Nevertheless, Kutigi’s son was nominated.

According to the same source, the second attempt came when the President’s former aide who was later a governor, visited Kutigi’s office on April 10 accompanied by a controversial businessman and at one time, the godfather of Anambra polities. The aide says the two offered Kutigi 200 million Naira (about $1.6 million) to drop the suit by Atiku and leave him off the ballot. Kutigi, according to the aide “reacted strongly” to the offer and escorted them out of his office. The next day, President Obasanjo declared a two-day holiday ahead of the April 14 elections effectively delaying the decision in the Atiku suit until the following week.

A third attempt reportedly took place on April 24, when Kutigi was summoned to meet a paramount traditional ruler from his home state. According to a member of the monarch’s council of chiefs, the monarch offered Kutigi N400 million (about $3.2 million) from “the Presidency” in exchange for “control” over which specific cases the elections tribunals would overturn results.

According to the source, Kutigi was livid. He told the king that he had no desire to explain to his family “where this kind of money comes from” and pointed out that, at his age, he would be “meeting the angels” to answer for his life very soon. And they will not be asking me for Naira.” When the monarch discussed the situation with his council, several of them reportedly berated him for “even suggesting” that Kutigi could be bribed and advised him to return the cash to its source as soon as possible.

On April 26, rumours began circulating that Kutigi’s official vehicle had come under attack in Abuja by “unknown gunmen.” Reportedly, shots were fired at the Chief Justice’s car and he was whisked to safety by his security aide. Post has been unable to confirm this rumour, but it is widely believed by Nigerians to be true.

On the same evening, PolCouns overheard phone calls from three Supreme Court Justices, including the Chief Justice, to members of ANPP presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s entourage. Two of them were expressing sympathy with Buhari over the elections and assuring him of the judiciary’s impartiality. The third call-a Justice from the Southwest- also encouraged Buhari personally to forge ahead with the elections tribunals because, in the words of the Justice, “we are fed up with the pretense of democracy” pushed by President Obasanjo.



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