President Bola Tinubu received temporary relief on Monday 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.
Aaron 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 had 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.”
Mr. Greenspan, a transparency activist running Plainsite, filed the emergency request after Mr. Tinubu suddenly deployed lawyers to fight against the release, saying it would violate his privacy, among other statutory rights.
Mr Greenspan said Mr 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 Mr Tinubu’s lawyers, as well as lawyers for Atiku Abubakar, the president’s main challenger.
Mr Greenspan has followed political controversies in Nigeria since his website was besieged by Nigerians looking for information about the 1993 case that saw Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr 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,” Mr Graves said.
View and download the Order below: