Report: ‘No  Evidence in Jefferson Case Implicated  Atiku’


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*U.S. shouldn’t allow Nigeria weaponise visa for repression of opponents, says Rights lawyer

HIGHLIGHTS:

-A JUROR IN THE TRIAL OF US CONGRESSMAN JEFFERSON SAYS NO EVIDENCE IMPLICATED MR ATIKU

-INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER WARNS USA NOT TO JOIN BUHARI’S REPRESSION OF OPPONENTS

-CONVICTED US CONGRESSMAN NOW FREED ON APPEAL

Due to issues of urgent national interest generated by the alleged US “cases” involving the leading challenger to former VP Abubakar Atiku, we have undertaken to shed more light on the above in a bid to provide the general public an informed analytical framework and to clarify the role of US Nigeria Law Group in the same.

A. THE CASE AGAINST CONGRESSMAN JEFFERSON – DEFENSE COUNSEL’S VIEW

Several years ago, we were approached by defense counsel to congressman Wilson to assist him in their defense of him in matters related to his interactions with VP Abubakar Atiku. We declined the offer. However a lawyer within the USNLG law group was ultimately retained by Jefferson’s counsel to assist them in the matter.

While not having been directly involved in the matter, we can state for a fact as follows:

  1. The case was against Congressman Jefferson and not VP Abubakar Atiku
  2. The interest of the defense counsel was not in VP Abubakar Atiku but in his Nigerian American wife
  3. The interest in the wife was not as a co-accused or indicted co-conspirator but as a witness for the defense in the trial of the US congressman
  4. It is our understanding that Nigerian counsel in the matter were unable to serve her and as a result she did not testify on behalf of the congressman who was subsequently jailed.

This is the extent of our direct knowledge in the case. We however add a historic footnote that congressman Jefferson had been pro Abacha during our prior efforts to engage the US Congress to press for democracy in Nigeria 20 years ago. Even back then there had been rumors of his unhealthy business interests in Nigeria under that military dictatorship.

B. THE CASE AGAINST CONGRESSMAN JEFFERSON – A JUROR’S VIEW

Over a period of time, we interviewed a member of the jury who voted for the conviction of Congressman Jefferson. It was indicated to us that:

  1. The jurors reviewed video recordings of meetings in the VP’s Potomac mansion as well as audio of the wiretaps of conversations held with VP Abubakar Atiku. The juror intimated that in none of these did he incriminate himself in anyway insisting that the VP was noncommittal.
  2. The juror in question revealed that a fellow juror was convinced that there was no proof that Abubakar Atiku was involved in the bribery scheme and therefore they agreed not to convict Jefferson on the count related to his alleged inducement of Atiku.
  3. Specifically he stated to us thus: MY Impression during the US REP Jefferson trial regarding VP Atiku.                                                                                                       “My experience as a Juror on the Congressman Jefferson Case was revelatory on how corruption is conducted by US government officials. Government officials have implicit way of taking bribes. I was also amazed on how many American businessmen/women are willing to invest in Africa .The US Rep Jefferson had set up companies in his wife and children’s names to collect consultation fees for these business deals. We examined an bribery indictment….The FBI wanted to connect the $100K  as a bribe to get a contract in Nigeria for a caucasian lady from Virginia who had wiretapped conversation with the congressman . She also wiretapped her trip to the Vice President’s mansion in Potomac Maryland. The Vice President was very careful with his dealings and his words during this particular meeting. On examining the evidence of bribery to Vice President we had one Juror who was not convinced and disagreed with the rest of us jurors therefore; Congressman was not found guilty on this particular indictment. So Jefferson was not found guilty on this particular charge of bribery to the Vice President. It was really an experience of a life time and memorable event in my life. I got to see pictures of the mansion in Potomac . I realized on thing that many US politicians and business investors find Africa as a place were they can do business under the table with no legal  ramifications if the government officials are part of their deals. To them this is an adventure. Jefferson exploited this opportunity to most of them .At the same time the Congressman Jefferson was playing the middle man in facilitating potential deals to enrich himself – pure greed.”  We wish to clarify that this is not a review of the record of proceedings but direct feedback of persons in the courtroom who determined the verdict on the congressman. The juror has requested anonymity at this time.

C. UPDATE: THE APPEAL OF CONGRESSMAN JEFFERSON SUCCESSFUL

The juror interviewed brought it our attention that Congressman Jefferson has since been released from prison following the overturning of his conviction on appeal. He shared with us this link that indicates that verdict was reversed not because of errors in the trial but because a new precedent by the Supreme Court in the corruption trial of a US Governor came into effect https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/local/public-safety/judge-lets-former-louisiana-congressman-william-jefferson-out-of-prison/2017/10/05/8b53619e-aa0b-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html

In conclusion, the juror stated, “I feel that my time and tax payers money was wasted to hear that the case was overturned.” The Congressman was released last year.

D. ATIKU’S US VISA

We are not privy to the facts of denial or non-denial of US visas to the former VP. However generally speaking, we can provide a few perspectives for better understanding.

  1. If indeed the VP’s visa is under administrative review, this is NOT a visa DENIAL. It merely means it is subject to further evaluation and has been referred to the home office from the in country embassy for additional scrutiny. The administrative review can last several years. It is sometimes appealable and sometimes not depending on the nature of visa involved. Several Nigerians including politicians and ordinary citizens have been subject to this.
  2. The US has several laws under which people’s visas are revoked or denied for cause. Special cases include Corruption, Terrorism and Religious Violence. In the case of revocations on the basis of corruption, an ex-governor currently imprisoned for corruption is one of the prominent officials barred by the US and also a former controversial Attorney General of the Federation. Both were from the Middle belt. It should be noted that the US once prohibited people with HIV from coming to the US but that restriction has now been lifted. More recently a ban on visas from terror-prone countries has been imposed by the US president.
  3. We are alarmed that the Nigerian government has called on the US to deny Atiku a visa. This is the height of meddlesomeness and mindlessness. Normally governments even issue note verbals to enable certain citizens obtain visas from other countries. It is unusual for a country to ask another to deny its own citizens visas. We note that the Nigerian government similarly caused the denial of residency for a Nigerian journalist in the middle east just to persecute him for exposing the ongoing regarding terrorism in the north. We recall that even when the Nigerian embassy in Washington denied a visa to a former US ambassador for his critical book on Nigeria, not even the US intervened to change that because visas are within the exclusive jurisdiction of each countries territorial integrity. Bearing in mind that the Nigerian Embassy in Washington is attempting to revoke  my Nigerian passport for purportedly being critical of General Buhari in the US Congress, we want to urge the US government to discountenance and ignore any requests by the Nigerian government to deny any Nigerian a visa as retaliation for opposing General Buhari’s government. Indeed it is disturbing and telling that the reason given is that it would have a political impact. We wish to state categorically that as revealed by President Jonathan in his new memoir, there was clear bias in favor of Gen Buhari by the then US administration prior to the 2015 election. Obama pointedly refused to visit the most important country in Africa on two occasions and the State Department actually said they preferred a “Muslim majority” country.

Moreover, the US government had Gen. Buhari cancel a scheduled trip to speak at a US think tank but rather wait and receive a visit in Nigeria by then Secretary of State Kerry to boost Buhari’s profile. To further undermine President Jonathan, Secretary Kerry had him fly to Lagos where Kerry met with both Buhari and Jonathan separately. This was down to systematically diminish President Jonathan rather than visit him at the seat of government in Abuja.

As a beneficiary of such a high powered favoritism by the US government towards its own election in 2015, why would the ruling APC denounce a mere visa as a political tool?

Gen Buhari is now one of the unfortunate legacies of the previous US administration and should refrain from trying to use the US again to aid his re-election. He should seek re-election on the strength of his domestic accomplishments and not on the weaponization of Foreign consular services against his opponents.

Our research into other related matters continues and we shall update accordingly.

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