A former Attorney-General of the Federation, Bello Adoke, issued a scathing response to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday, accusing the anti-graft agency of lending itself to manipulation by powerful political interests.
Mr. Adoke said the EFCC’s handling of the controversial $1.1 billion Malabu Oil deal was inimical to Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort and called on concerned authorities to immediately caution the agency’s alleged injustice against the citizens.
Mr. Adoke’s response came a day after PREMIUM TIMES’ reported that the EFCC had slammed fresh charges of money laundering against him and one of his associates, Abubakar Aliyu, accusing them of sharing millions of dollars in fraudulent proceeds.
In the charges, filed at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the EFCC alleged that Mr. Adoke exchanged more than $2.2 million in a bureau de change in Abuja as part of his share in the controversial $1.1 billion Malabu Oil deal.
Prosecutors believe Mr. Abubakar, a controversial owner of A.A. Oil Ltd., acted as middleman in the questionable deal.
The EFCC said in the court filings that Mr. Adoke took delivery of exactly $2,267,400 on September 16, 2013, and immediately enlisted the service of money changers to have it converted to the local currency.
Based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time, Mr. Adoke made N345, 200,000 after successfully converting the funds. He subsequently deposited all the money in a Unity Bank account to offset an outstanding overdraft of N300 million, court documents showed.
But Mr. Adoke said in an email to PREMIUM TIMES Friday evening that the EFCC knew the facts of the case but was deliberately muddling them up to confuse “gullible” Nigerians and malign his image.
Mr. Adoke said the money he purportedly received from Mr. Aliyu to settle mortgage payment was not exactly was transpired, describing the obfuscation as “reckless” and “reprehensible.”
“What is responsible for this reckless and reprehensible move by the EFCC to link my mortgage repayment to Unity Bank of Nigeria to the alleged bribe of $2.2 million, when the documentation in the bank in respect of the mortgage is available for any objective person to appraise and come to an informed conclusion?
“While not going into the merits, it is pertinent to state that I had applied for a Mortgage Loan in the sum of N300, 000,000 from Unity Bank of Nigeria to purchase a property from Aliyu Abubakar, a property developer in Abuja.
“The bank paid the loan sum directly to the developer and when I could not meet up with the repayments or pay the balance; he opted to repossess the property.
“I consented to this option and the developer directly paid the bank the loan sum and the Certificate of Occupancy was released to him.
“The EFCC is aware of this transaction and the fact that the developer subsequently sold the property to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“If this were not the case, they would have applied to have the mortgaged property forfeited. Despite this information, the EFCC in furtherance of its preconceived plan to ridicule and tarnish my name has hinged on this mortgage transaction to slam me with a preposterous charge of collecting a bribe of $2.2 million on the OPL 245 resolution transaction,” Mr. Adoke said.
Mr. Adoke said the EFCC embarked on the latest “spurious and malicious” campaign against him because the agency was desperate to defend the interim forfeiture order of the OPL 245 oil field.
The alleged desperation, Mr. Adoke added, led the EFCC to render itself as a tool for some vindictive powerful families in the country who have interest in the oil block.
Although he fell short at naming the families, the OPL 245 had pitted a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, and the Mohammed Abacha, son of former military ruler, Sani Abacha, against each other.
Mr. Abacha had been laying claims to the oil block, saying he was not a party to the 2011 agreement that led to the questionable payment of $1.1 billion to Mr. Etete and Nigerian government by Shell and Agip-Eni.
Mr. Adoke absolved himself of any wrongdoing, saying he saved Nigeria more than $2 billion in damages that stemmed from arbitration claims instituted against the Nigerian government at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes over the OPL 245 block, which is believed to hold more than 9 billion barrels of crude oil and even more volumes of natural gas.
Mr. Adoke was instrumental to Nigerian government’s involvement in the suspicious Malabu Oil deal, which saw Shell and Agip-Eni paying money into an escrow account of the Nigerian government to settle a firm with a questionable history.
Mr. Adoke authorised the transfer of the $1.1 billion paid by Shell and Eni into private accounts of Mr. Etete, who further transferred a large percentage to Mr. Abubakar. Investigations suggested that Mr. Abubakar might have acted as a front for officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, including Mr. Adoke.
Shell, Agip-Eni, Mr. Adoke and Mr. Etete, who initially approved the lease award of the OPL 245 while he was petroleum minister in 1998, have all denied wrongdoings.
But Italian prosecutors said late last year they had enough grounds to charge Shell, Agip-Eni, and their executives alongside other Nigerians involved in the controversial deal for fraud in Milan.
In separate charges filed late 2016, the EFCC accused Mr. Adoke and Mr. Etete of defrauding Nigeria in the OPL 245 deal.
The Department of Petroleum Resources said last December that Mr. Adoke and other officials of the Jonathan administration who participated in the concession of the lucrative oil field to Shell and Agip-Eni did not follow due process.
Mr. Adoke, who is currently in the Netherlands for study, had maintained his innocence and pledged to make himself available for trial.
EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comments Saturday morning.