Nigeria’s anti-graft agency is yet to release Bello Adoke, days after its second remand warrant for the former attorney-general expired.
Following the expiration of the first order, a judge approved a second warrant to keep the former attorney-general for another 14 days to enable anti-graft detectives to conduct their investigation and arraign him in court.
The second warrant expired on January 16.
Mr Adoke was detained in Dubai, UAE, and later travelled to Nigeria on December 19 when he was arrested by Interpol at the Abuja airport and handed over to the EFCC. It was his first entrance into the country since he went on exile a few months after leaving office in 2015.
The former AGF has been a subject of an international investigation into the Malabu Oil scandal regarding the controversial sale of Nigeria’s OPL 245 oil field.
Mr Adoke was the attorney-general when Nigeria brokered the 2010 transaction between Shell and Agip-Eni and Dan Etete, a former Nigerian petroleum minister who had been previously convicted for money laundering in France.
He, Shell, Agip-Eni and dozens of other suspects identified in the charges denied wrongdoing. The trial of some Shell and Agip-Eni officials who allegedly took part in the suspicious payments, commenced in Italy last year.
Mr Adoke vacated office as attorney-general in May 2015, following the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan.
While in Europe, he enrolled for a master’s degree programme at a university in The Netherlands. He also wrote a memoir that was published in September 2019.
In November 2019, he was arrested in Dubai on allegations bordering on the Malabu scandal, spending more than a month in what his lawyer said was an illegal detention.
The EFCC has since filed charges against Mr Adoke, but hearing dates have not been disclosed to the public.
‘Crucial and legal’
The EFCC investigated Mr Adoke for years and even filed charges against him. It remained unclear why he has not been arraigned a month since he returned to the country. He is even yet to be served the charges.
The commission got court orders to remand the former minister for 28 days saying it needed time to complete investigation in a matter in which charges were already filed.
The EFCC acknowledged the expiration of a second remand warrant for Mr Adoke but said its action was nonetheless legal and consistent with its extant operational procedure.
Tony Orilade, the acting spokesperson for the anti-graft office, said Mr Adoke was being held beyond the validity of court order because the date for his arraignment had drawn nearer and he had to be kept in custody for ease of access.
“Once charges have been filed and a date is fixed for arraignment, the commission goes after the suspect to ensure the person is in safe custody in preparation for the arraignment,” Mr Orilade told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday morning.
The official did not cite an existing law that enables the agency to hold a citizen without a court warrant but said the practice is part of “crucial and legal” measures put in place to guarantee diligent prosecution. Nigeria’s criminal justice system prohibits detention of a suspect beyond 48 hours without trial.
Mr Orilade said even if Mr Adoke had been freed on bail, detectives would still have to take him into custody ahead of the arraignment.
“Even if he were to be at home, we would still go after him and bring him into custody in preparatory for arraignment,” he added.
Even though Mr Orilade insisted that all had been set for Mr Adoke’s arraignment, he declined to comment on the specific date fixed for the commencement of hearing in the matter. He also declined to say whether or not judges had been assigned to hear the matter.
But PREMIUM TIMES learnt from other EFCC sources that Mr Adoke would be arraigned in court any day from Tuesday. The former AGF would likely be charged on separate allegations before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and the Federal Capital Territory High Court.
The Federal High Court case would likely contain about seven charges, including money laundering, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from sources.
At the FCT High Court, about 42 counts have been prepared against Mr Adoke and his alleged conspirators, including businessman Aliyu Abubakar, Mabalu Oil Limited, Shell, Agip-Eni and Rasky Gbinigie, a former Malabu official.