A former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, on Monday, asked a Federal Capital Territory(FCT) High Court in Jabi to strike out his name from the ongoing trial of alleged abuse of office and money laundering by the anti-graft agency.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) in 2017 filed charges against Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Co. Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Eni Spa, Raph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefano, Burrito Sebastiano, Duazia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete), Mr Adoke, Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
They were alleged to be complicit in the laundering and diversion of $1. 2 billion paid by oil giants, Shell and Eni, through the Nigerian government to Malabu, a company then controlled by Mr Etete.
The money was for the control of an oil block, OPL 245, awarded illegally to Malabu in 1998 when Mr Etete was Nigeria’s petroleum minister.
A large chunk of the money is believed to have been paid as bribes to officials of the oil firm and senior officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Shell, Eni and their officials are already being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.
The judge presiding over the matter, Danladi Senchi, on April 17, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Mr Adoke and his co-accused, following an ‘ex-parte’ request made by the EFCC.
An ‘ex-parte’ request is one made in the absence of the other parties to a suit.
But the court on October 25 agreed with arguments of Mr Adoke’s lawyer and vacated the order.
The judge said then that Mr Adoke, who has been on self-exile abroad, should be served by substituted means.
During the court session on Monday, Mr Adoke’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, told the court that the former AGF had filed an application seeking the removal of his name from the charge sheet.
According to the senior counsel, the application was filed on November 5 but was served on the prosecution by the court bailiff on November 27.
Mr Ozekhome stated that the EFCC lawyer, Offer Uket, told him that he was away when the application was served on the prosecution and as such could not respond to it appropriately.
The senior counsel further stated that both parties had agreed that the matter is adjourned to December 4, to enable the prosecution to respond to Mr Adoke’s application.
This was also confirmed by Mr Uket, who said that latest by Monday, he would have responded, filed and served a response to the application.
Mr Adoke’s lawyer further informed the court that despite its October 25 order setting aside the arrest warrant issued on the former AGF, he was being held in Dubai.
“When his (Adoke’s) warrant of arrest was vacated on October 25, he felt he should go for medical checkup in Dubai. He was arrested there based on the earlier court warrant of arrest.”
Mr Ozekhome added that all steps to ensure that the former AGF is released by the Interpol had been taken, including writing EFCC, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the UAE authorities and Interpol, which he said had not yielded any result.
He said it is Mr Adoke today but it could be anybody’s turn tomorrow, declaring that, “it is the duty of the AGF to ensure that the rights of every Nigerian citizen are protected.”
The matter has been adjourned to December 4 for the hearing of the application.
In the application seen by journalists, the former AGF is asking for an order of the court “striking out the name of Bello Mohammed Adoke (SAN), as a defendant in charge number FCT/HC/CR/124/17 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Co Ltd & 10 others, pending before this honourable court.”
Among others, Mr Adoke wants the court to strike out his name on the fact that he had secured a judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, against the Attorney-General of the Federation, representing the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which ruled that he could not be tried for acting on a presidential directive while in office.
Mr Ozekhome argued that based on the ruling of Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the inclusion of Mr Adoke’s name as a defendant in the criminal case was erroneous.
The senior counsel said EFCC concealed the April 13, 2018 judgment by Mrs Nyako.
This, he noted is “a gross misstatement, misrepresentation, concealment and suppression of material facts” by the EFCC, he added.
It is that argument that the EFCC is expected to file a response to.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the International Police (INTERPOL), on November 11 arrested Mr Adoke in Dubai.
He has been detained in the UAE since then.
However, in a letter dated November 28 and addressed to the general secretariat of INTERPOL in France, the former AGF demanded his release.
In the letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Mr Adoke described his arrest and current trial as political persecution by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and an abuse of court orders.