Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Ex-minister, Mike Aondoakaa, sues U.S. government over visa revocation

Published:

Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mike Aondoakaa

Disgraced former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, has sued the American government, seeking explanation for the revocation of his U.S. non-immigrant visa.

The U.S. government had revoked Mr Aondoakaa’s visa and those of members of his family soon after he left office due to his alleged link to corruption.

An unnamed U.S. diplomat, who spoke to Punch Newspapers at the time, confirmed that the former minister’s visa was revoked under Proclamation 7750 that empowers the U.S. authorities to bar anyone with links to corruption from entering the U.S.

However, further details about the revocation were not disclosed.

PREMIUM TIMES can report today that the former minister filed a case against the State Department after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request he filed was turned down.

He then approached a United States District Court asking it to compel the U.S. to release documents related to the revocation of his visa to him, according to court papers exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

The suit, filed in a US district Court, District of New Jersey, by Mr Aondoakaa’s U.S. attorney, Thomas Moseley, was instituted few weeks after the ex-minister denied he was banned from entering the U.S.

“I have not been banned from entering the United States and I have my visa intact,” Mr Aondoakaa had said in a statement released on June 26, 2010.

“Secondly, none of my relatives has a student visa to the United States as claimed by some publications. Therefore, the US Government cannot revoke what they did not issue.”

However, the court documents shows that on August 10, 2010, Mr Moseley filed the FOIA suit against the US Department of State asking for the release of documents showing reasons why his client’s visa was revoked.

“This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as amended, 5 U.S.C & 552 et seq. to enjoin the defendant from withholding certain records sought by the plaintiff including document relevant to the reasons for which his non-immigrant visa was revoked,” the court documents read.

However, the Department of State did not provide the details sought by Mr Aondoakaa after the expiration of 20 days statutory period for the documents to be provided.

Mr Aondoakaa therefore asked the court to order the State Department to make the documents he sought available to him in “their entirety.” He asked the court to award him the cost of disbursement plus attorney fee as well as expediting the proceedings of the complaint.

The documents seen by Premium Times also included an unsigned court summon ordering the Department of State to provide Mr Aondoakaa the information he sought.

“A lawsuit has been filed against you. Within 21 days after service of this summons on you (not counting the day you received it) – or 60 days if you are the United State or a United State agency or an officer or an employee of the United State… you must serve on the plaintiff an answer to the attached compliant or a motion under rule 12 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.”

“If you fail to respond, judgement by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint.”

It is unclear whether the State Department eventually provided my Aondoakaa the details he sought.

The State Department and the United States embassy in Nigeria did not respond to emails sent to them.

Mr Aondoakaa, who is believed to be nursing a governorship ambition in his native state of Benue, couldn’t be reached on his mobile phone number for comment on the suit. He didn’t answer or return calls.

His attorney, Mr Moseley, also did not respond to our email neither did he return our calls.

The many sins of Aondoakaa

Mr Aondoakaa, a prominent member of late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government, was notorious for his brash support of the government and his shameless defence of corrupt former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who is now serving a 13-year prison term in the United Kingdom for money laundering offences.

As Attorney General, Mr Aondoakaa did everything to block the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting Mr Ibori and other corrupt officials.

He lied to British investigators requesting information on the former governor under the Mutual Legal Assistant Treaty between both countries.

Mr Aondoakaa also wrote a letter saying Mr Ibori had not been charged to any court in Nigeria. That was after the EFCC had charged Mr Ibori to court soon after he left office as governor.

True to his nature, Mr Aondoakaa denied writing any such letter but was forced to shamefully recant after a copy of the letter was published in the media.

He also declined the request by the London Metropolitan Police to allow officials of the EFCC to stand as prosecuting witness against Mr Ibori.

On September 18, 2007, the former minister wrote a letter to French authorities questioning the appropriateness of prosecuting former oil minister Dan Etete, implicated in the N155 billion Malabu Oil scandal, for money laundering since Nigeria had neither complained nor investigated Mr Etete for the said crime.

“Permit me to state for the avoidance of any doubt that this office is unaware of any complaint or allegation of money laundering against the petitioner (Etete) to warrant any instruction to emanate from this office to any person howsoever called or described to proceed against the petitioner in relation to the ongoing prosecution in Paris,” he wrote.

Mr Etete was later convicted for money laundering offences by a Paris court.

He also shielded the owners of Globe Motors, Vaswani Brothers from investigation and prosecution. The brothers were later indicted and deported by the government for gross corruption on the Nigerian people.

Deliberately misinterpreting the law

As Nigeria’s chief legal officer, Mr Aondoakaa ironically showed a high disregard for the law of the country. When he is not deliberately misinterpreting laws to shield his corrupt cronies, he is busy displaying schoolboy ignorance of the tenets of local and international laws.

One of Mr Aondoakaa’s pastime as Minister of Justice was his endless berating of UK authorities over the indictment of serial fraudster, Mr. Ibori. Mr Aondoakaa argued that the indictment of corrupt Nigerians by foreign authorities was a usurpation of Nigerian jurisdiction. He apparently was unaware that international law allows countries to assume jurisdiction for offences committed outside their national boarders especially where such offences have international implication.

Debarred

In 2010, the Legal Privileges Committee (LPPC) suspended Mr Aondoakaa from using the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria for two years following a petition by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and a ruling by a Calabar Federal High Court on June 1, 2010, that he was unfit to hold the office of the Attorney General or any public office in Nigeria.

The statement by the LPPC at the time read, “After due consideration of the said response, has decided in its wisdom, to suspend him [Aondoakaa] from the use of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and all other privileges attached to that rank, pending the outcome of the investigation by the sub-committee set up by the legal practitioners privileges committee.”

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