A report by the Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonprofit research group based in Washington DC, published on Tuesday, April 9, claimed that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, is lobbying the United States to recognise him as Nigeria’s “authentic president”.
The CRP based its report on FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) filings, saying Bruce Fein and his firm Fein & DelValle PLLC registered as foreign agents on behalf of Atiku to provide legal, consultancy, and public advocacy services over a 90-day period for $30,000.
The report stated in part: “In the contract, Fein’s firm is explicit in promising to ‘obtain official recognition that you are the authentic President of Nigeria based on an accurate counting of legal ballots.’ The goal of the effort is straightforwardly described as ‘to convince the United States that your presidency would open a fresh and new chapter in Nigerian politics.'”
However, shortly after the report was published, Atiku dismissed as 'total fabrication' the allegation that he spent $30,000 to hire a US lobby group to persuade the US Congress to stop the inauguration of President Buhari.
In a statement made available to Legit.ng by his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku, who described these as "shameless lies", said the latest dirty propaganda against him "didn't come as a surprise to us because lying has so far become their only bragging rights of competence."
He accused the ruling All Progressives Progress (APC) of being behind the 'total fabrication'.
"Since Atiku resisted pressure not to go to court, the APC has been behaving like a cat on hot bricks because the outcome of the 2019 elections has exposed and shattered the facade of their dubious integrity," Ibe said.
The spokesman added in the statement that the APC was behaving nervously like a thief living under the fear of being exposed and shamed.
The statement said the ruling party was using fake news against Atiku instead of focusing on defending themselves in the court.
"For a party that has broken the worst record in election rigging, the APC doesn't have any iota of integrity to be taken seriously by anybody.
"Atiku's court case has become their biggest burden because it exposes their integrity as a sham, and instead of defending their stolen mandate in court, they are now using fake news to divert public attention from the historic electoral heist they have committed against Nigerians," the statement said.
The former vice president said no amount of diversionary propaganda and fake news campaign by the APC would stop him from continuing the court action he started to reclaim the stolen mandate.
Did Atiku truly hire US lobbyists to get him recognised as 'authentic president' or was the story fabricated as he claimed?
The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) fact-checks the claim.
According to ICIR's findings, the United States, in 1938, passed a law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
FARA requires agents representing foreign principals in a “political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose the nature and details of their contract with the other party.
The media outlet added that all disclosures made are uploaded onto an online database by the US Department of Justice and made accessible to the public.
On April 2, Fein & DelValle PLLC, Washington DC-based law firm, registered an active contract it has with “Atiku Abubakar and the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria”, with registration number 6654.
In the part of the registration form requiring the nature and method of executing the agreement, Fein & DelValle stated that it will be providing provide “legal, consultancy and public advocacy services to encourage Congress and the Executive” to wait on recognizing a winner of the Nigerian election until after the legal challenge is “impartially and independently resolved".
The law firm, according to the agreement, is expected to consult with Congress members towards passing House and Senate resolutions to restrain from a final recognition of a winner pending a fair determination of the legal issues, draft articles and op-eds “to spotlight the issues in Nigeria post-2019 presidential election and to promote the rule of law and due process in resolving electoral disputes in Nigeria”, and then “make television and other media appearances to engage in public advocacy discussions of these issues”.
It also attached a letter written to Atiku on March 20, where it said the terms of the contract include its representation of the PDP candidate “in the United States and in international forums to obtain official recognition that you are the authentic President of Nigeria based on an accurate counting of legal ballots cast on February 23, 2019.”
Fein & DelVille agreed to help Atiku secure recognition as the authentic president of Nigeria.
The ICIR's verdict
Considering the shreds of evidence it finds, The ICIR concludes that Atiku’s claim that the report about his contract with the US firm is a “total fabrication” is false.
Information on the US Justice Department’s FARA portal establish that such contract exists, where Atiku is seeking to be acknowledged abroad as “the authentic President of Nigeria” based on PDP’s grounds for challenging the declared results.
The ICIR added that its findings were brought to the attention of Ibe on Thursday, April 11 but the call was abruptly ended and another call placed to him immediately after was not answered. It added that a text seeking to confirm whether the PDP has seen documents from the US government contradicting its press statement has also not been replied.
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Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP on Thursday, April 11, said Atiku will not relent in his effort to take back his mandate at the election tribunal.
The PDP, through its national public secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that no plot or strategy by the APC can stop Atiku from reclaiming his mandate.
In a statement published on the PDP's official Twitter page, Ologbondiyan again dismissed the report that Atiku paid the sum of $30,000 to a US lobby group to help him get back his mandate without addressing the findings of The ICIR.
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