A United States District Judge, Nancy Maldonado, has agreed to stay an order directing Chicago State University to make available the academic documents of President Bola Tinubu, to the legal team of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The hearing came up late Thursday night after the president’s lawyers filed an emergency motion seeking a delay in the implementation of the self-effectuating order directing the CSU to comply with Atiku’s subpoenas till Monday.
Earlier reports noted that a magistrate, Jeffrey Gilbert, had on Tuesday ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to the applicant, Atiku, within two days.
Documents sought by the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the record of admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards, and honours attained by the former governor of Lagos State at the university, among others.
But the president’s attorneys had argued that the earlier decision by Gilbert needed to be reviewed by a district judge.
Speaking to The PUNCH via phone chat from his base in the United States, Coordinator of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, disclosed that what they sought was a review and not an appeal as being peddled in the media.
To further buttress his point, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria emphasised that the US magistrate does not have the power to give an order given to the university to release non-privileged information, adding that he can only make a recommendation.
“As I am talking to you, I am in America and on top of this matter. Our people are just making issues out of nothing. What did the magistrate do? I think we need to understand the American procedure. The magistrate is to make a recommendation to the district judge and not to give a final order. No, he cannot. He has no such power. And that is what we are saying to the district judge. They are to make a recommendation, which must be within 48 hours.
“In anyway, what is the issue here? Whatever you said you wanted, the court said ‘release non-privileged’. After all, they have confirmed that the man attended their school, and got his letter of admission as well as first, second, third, and fourth semester results. They have admitted it is their certificate, and you (court) are now coming to say they should release the information. For what exactly? They brought his application for admission.
“What we are even saying is this. We are not filing an appeal but asking for a review against Monday for the judge to pronounce. We are providing the judge with additional information to say the person they have granted this order was granted purportedly because he said that he wants to use it to pursue his litigation in Nigeria. There is nothing to appeal as it does not show anything to suggest that he is bringing anything from America. Is that not fraudulent? That’s our contention,” he said.
Few hours after Ogala spoke with our correspondent, his request for a review and delay of the order till Monday was granted by the US district judge.
In the emergency hearing, Maldonado disclosed that mindful of legal deadlines in Nigeria, she would rule on the matter as quickly as possible.
She said, “I will have a busy weekend. The issue is of process and rules. I’m a rule person. That’s why I’m a judge. This case is quite involved. I am aware of the stakes. It’s more important to me to get this right.”
Meanwhile, the president has departed New York after attending the 78th session of high-level meetings of the UN General Assembly on Thursday where he also addressed world leaders on the relevance of democracy, stressing that military coups are wrong.
Tinubu arrived at the event in the company of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, and the Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila.