Why US court declined to order release of CIA, FBI dossiers on Tinubu
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has declined an emergency application seeking to compel top US law enforcement agencies to hasten the release of confidential information on Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu.
The judge, Beryl Howell, refused the application on Monday.
Aaron Greenspan, an American, had filed a suit in June under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In his complaint, Greenspan accused the law enforcement agencies of violating the FIOA by failing to release within the statutory time “documents relating to purported federal investigations into” President Tinubu and one Mueez Adegboyega Akande, who is now deceased.
According to Greenspan, the records being requested were from the Northern District of Illinois and/or Northern District of Indiana “involving charging decisions” against Tinubu and Akande.
In 1993, Tinubu was said to have forfeited $460,000 to the American government after authorities linked the funds to proceeds of narcotics trafficking.
“Bola Ahmed Tinubu is an alleged criminal trying to buy time in a desperate attempt to cling to power in Nigeria, which the FOIA materials in this action directly threaten,” Greenspan told the Court on Monday.
His response came shortly after Tinubu filed a motion to intervene in the suit claiming he would be “adversely affected” if the court denied his intervention request.
But Mr Greenspan said he could see through Mr Tinubu’s foot-dragging antics to fool the U.S. court into delaying the release of his records because he knew the documents could bungle his case at the apex court in Nigeria.
The issue of Tinubu’s forfeiture of the funds featured prominently at the Presidential Election Petition Court where Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, challenged the president’s eligibility to contest Nigeria’s presidency.
But the election court in a unanimous decision, on 6 September, dismissed the suits, affirming Mr Tinubu’s election.
Ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing of Atiku Abubakar’s case against President Tinubu’s election on Monday in Abuja, Greenspan had last Friday earnestly sought the US court’s intervention to order the FBI, the CIA and others to fast-track the process of releasing the documents on the Nigerian leader.
A seven-member panel of the Nigerian Supreme Court on Monday heard Atiku and Peter Obi’s appeals seeking to overturn Tinubu’s victory in the 25 February presidential election.
Reason for denial of request
Court filings showed that the EOUSA had denied Mr Greenspan’s FOIA request “invoking FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(c), which protect information that would constitute unwarranted invasions of personal privacy and information compiled for law enforcement purposes that may constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of a third party.”
Declining the request, the judge, Beryl Howell, said Greenspan did not meet the preconditions for granting his request.
“Plaintiff has failed even to attempt to argue how his request may overcome those exemptions and achieve a likelihood of success on the merits. This failure to address this important factor in his Emergency Motion weighs strongly in favour of denying his motion,” Ms Howell said.
Citing a plethora of cases to buttress the preconditions, the judge noted that Mr Greenspan must prove “that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction,” “rather than a mere possibility.”
She added that “Plaintiff falls far short of satisfying this standard. He has not supplied the court with any indication of a concrete, actual threat that he will suffer in the absence of an injunction. While his Emergency Motion states that a Nigerian Supreme Court hearing is scheduled to occur in the coming days, plaintiff cites no injury he will suffer that is in any way traceable to the relief requested in this motion.”
The judge further explained that Mr Greenspan’s request “…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.”
Therefore, “the balance of equities militates strongly in favor of denying this Emergency Motion.”
Ms Howell said there was no need to consider Mr Greenspan’s request for a hearing to “discuss even the most remote possibility of documents being produced before the October 31, 2023 [sic] chosen by defendants for themselves,”
“For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiff’s Emergency Motion for a Hearing to Compel Immediate Document Production, ECF No. 17 is DENIED. SO ORDERED,” the judge said.
In June, Mr Tinubu through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, tendered before the presidential election court in Abuja a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, clearing Mr Tinubu of any criminal conviction or arrest in the U.S.
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