Monday, October 26, 2020

Nigeria: No witch hunt in pursue of Adoke, others in Malabu Oil Scandal – EFCC


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC have taken note of THISDAY’s publication of Wednesday, July 31, 2019, titled: “Malabu Scandal: Prosecution Hampered by Evidence,” whose crux is that, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke is irreproachable in the fraudulent matter of the implementation of the settlement and resolution of agreements on Oil Prospecting License OPL 245 and OPL214 between Malabu oil and Gas Ltd, belonging to former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete  and the federal government of Nigeria in 2010 on the account that Justice Binta Nyako in a 2017 civil suit, marked FHC/ABJ/94/446/2017 absolved  Adoke of liability for his roles in the OPL 245 deal on account that he was acting on the directives of the then President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Commission wishes to state that logic was stood on its head in the said publication, given that Justice Nyako spelt out in no unclear terms that the reliefs Adoke got in the civil suit he brought before her in relation to the extent he can subordinate himself to the directives of the president in the matter of the OPL 245 and OPL214 deal did not make him ineligible to face criminal charges, arising from his actions in the same transaction.

It could be recalled that the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the OPL 245, which the late General Sani Abacha granted to Etete, who was his Petroleum Minister and reassigned it Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company.

Etete’s Malabu Oil and Gas, however, reclaimed the oil bloc in 2006 through the court.

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While Shell challenged the decision, a fraudulent settlement and resolution came under Jonathan’s  government with Shell and Eni buying the oil block from Malabu in the sum of $1.1billion.

Investigations of the EFCC into deal revealed crimes, that border on conspiracy, forgery of bank documents, bribery, corruption and money laundering to the tune of over $1.2 billon against Malabo oil and Gas Ltd, Shell Nigeria Ultra deep (SNUD) Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) and their officials.

The investigations further revealed that Etete and others fraudulently received an aggregate sum of US$ 801,540,000 (Eight Hundred Million, Five Hundred and Forty Thousand United States Dollars) from Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd and ENI SPA in relation to the oil prospecting license.

The investigation also revealed that the Adoke as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice abused his office in respect of the granting of the oil prospecting license OPL 245 to Shell and ENI.

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A prima facie case, bothering on official corruption was established by the Commission following the investigations, culminating in court charges against Adoke, Etete and others, which is still pending before the FCT High Court and the Federal High Court.

Arraignment of the Mohammed Adoke SAN, Etete and others could not take place because they along with other defendants have remained at large, refusing to make themselves available for trial.

Justice Nyako’s Did not Shield Adoke from Facing Criminal Prosecution

While the criminal matters, the EFCC brought against Adoke and others was in court, he went to Federal High Court, Auja, presided over by Justice Binta Nyako, seeking to be pronounced non-liable for acting on the directives of the then President Goodluck Jonathan in the matter relating to Shell and ENI deal with Malabo Oil and Gas on OPL 245.

While he got the relief, Justice Nyako made it clear that there was no nexus between declaratory reliefs he sought and the criminal charges against him in the EFCC suit.

In the 11 lines 2-11 of the judgement, the judge held that: “I have also examined Exhibit HAGF(copy of a charge FHC/ABJ/CR/39/17) attached to the Defendant’s Counter Affidavit to ascertain its nexus to the plaintiff’s declaratory reliefs and I am unable to find any link between Exhibit HAGF and the declarations sought by the plaintiff.

Exhibit HAGF contains “money laundering charges” against the plaintiff in respect of a banking transaction in which it is alleged that cash payments in excess of the permissible limit were paid into the plaintiff’s mortgage account with Unity Bank PLC.

This in my view is totally unrelated to the issue of the OPL 245 which is the subject matter upon which the issues for determination are predicated in the Originating Summons before this Court.”

Further at page 10 lines 23-28 the judge held: “Having studied the Originating Summons, I am of the view that it is merely seeking interpretation of certain provisions of the constitution and declaratory reliefs as they relate to the directives and approvals of the Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in connection with the implementation of OPL 245 resolution agreement which the plaintiff implemented and is praying this court for a declaration that he cannot be held personally liable for carrying out such directives, being merely an agent of a disclosed principal.

The Originating  Summons in my review does not indicate that the plaintiff is seeking any injunctive relief against his prosecution by the defendant or any other prosecutorial agency.

The Originating Summons merely seeks to ascertain the extent of Presidential Powers as contained in Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and whether a Minister who is appointed under Section 147 and directed by the President under Section 148 of the Constitution (as the plaintiff asserts) can be held personally liable for carrying out the lawful directives of the President.

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It is my view therefore that the defendant has not placed any material before the court in support of his contention.

I therefore find no link between Exhibit HAGF and the declaratory reliefs sought by the plaintiff and accordingly declare that Exhibit HAGF is extraneous to the determination of this issue.”

These pronouncements of the judge, leaves no one in doubt that the court  found no link between the criminal charge in Exhibit HAGF and the declaratory reliefs Adoke sought, prompting  the court to declare that Exhibit HAGF was extraneous to the determination of this issue Adoke brought before her.

The EFCC, therefore, states without mincing words that the judgement being brandished to the public by Adoke (SAN) is of  no relevance to his  prosecution for criminal charges pending before the  FCT High  Court.

The judgment in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/446/2017 referred to in THISDAY’s publication did not in any way shield Adoke SAN from standing criminal prosecution for his actions in the Malabu Oil deal.

In citing the judgement in FHC/ABJ/CS/446/2017, the newspaper portrayed misinterpretations and misrepresentations, intented to deceive the public.

On the letter purportedly written by ex-Attorney General Abubakar  Malami to the EFCC that Adoke has no case to answer as contained in THISDAY’S publication, we state that the attorney general had no need to write such a letter as his office has constitutional powers to take over and discontinue such criminal cases in court.

What the publication claims is not true, because the AG would rather have simply discontinued the matter in court by himself or his office in line with the constitutional provisions.

Malami as AG, therefore has no business writing such a letter to the EFCC.

On the issue of Non-service of Charge, the EFCC’s position is that Adoke at all material times was aware or had knowledge of the charge against him before the court in Nigeria,  but chose to abscond to overseas to evade trial.

Again, how can a defendant, represented by lawyers in court in Nigeria, claim he was not aware of the charge pending in court against him?

The Commission is not aware of the claim of the group about the Russian diplomat in relation to fresh Exonoration/Rights Group Intervention

Be that as it may, the contention of the group, which the publication says was pleading on behalf of Adoke on the ground that one Agaev,  a Russian diplomat standing trial in Milan Italy over the same scandal  refused to adopt the earlier statement he made to FBI implicating Adoke on the ground that he didn’t mean the statement to be used in court is of no relevance to the  criminal charge against Adoke in Nigeria.


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