A federal judge in the United States on Monday night denied a request for immediate release of President Bola Tinubu’s confidential records put together by American law enforcement agencies.
Judge Beryl Howell gave the ruling on a motion filed by Aaron Greenspan on October 20 asking the court to order the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department and other US agencies to immediately turn over the Nigerian president’s records.
“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 DC ruled.
“No hearing to determine the merits of this motion is necessary.”
Mr Greenspan filed the emergency request after Tinubu suddenly mobilised his lawyers to fight against the release, noting it would violate his privacy, among other statutory rights.
Greenspan said Tinubu was trying to slow down the release of the documents, which the agencies had previously stipulated would be released in batches beginning from October ending, to foreclose any impact the disclosures may have on the ongoing election dispute at the Nigerian Supreme Court.
Seven justices on Monday heard arguments from Tinubu’s lawyers, as well as lawyers for Atiku Abubakar, the president’s main challenger.
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 Mr Greenspan seeks could potentially help provide clarity around Mr 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 Ms Howell, in her decision, said Mr 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.