The trial of former Nigerian ministers, Dan Etete and Mohammed Adoke, for alleged diversion of $1.1 billion in the controversial sale of Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245 stalled on Thursday, following the inability of the prosecution to present the accused persons.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had charged the defendants with fraud over their roles in the sale of one of Nigeria’s richest oil well, the OPL 245, during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Various charges relating to the matter are before an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice John Tsoho.
One of the cases, involving Messrs. Adoke and Etete and a businessman, Abubakar Aliyu, was slated for Thursday but could not proceed because EFCC could not produce the defendants in court.
“My Lord, the process of getting the defendants to come to court has proven difficult,” the agency’s lawyer, Johnson Ojogbane, told the court.
He prayed for a long adjournment to allow the commission finalise discussions with authorities of the countries where the defendants are located to bring them back to the country.
Mr. Ojogbane later explained to PREMIUM TIMES that the application became necessary because the commission could not try only one of the three defendants.
“Both Etete and Adoke are not in the country. They are outside the jurisdiction of the court and we cannot try only Abubakar. That’s why we asked for time to finish the process of bringing them back,” Mr. Ojogbane said.
Mr. Tsoho adjourned the matter, till February 15.
Background to the case
After several political and judicial intrigues that ensured OPL 245 changed hands several times between Malabu, Shell, and the Nigerian government, Goodluck Jonathan emerged Nigeria’s president in 2010.
On the prompting of his attorney general, Mr. Adoke, one of Mr. Jonathan’s first directive upon assuming office was that the oil block be given to Malabu.
Persons close to Mr. Jonathan told PREMIUM TIMES that the former president took the decision because of his closeness to Mr. Etete who had helped him during his tenure as petroleum minister and because of the perception among persons from the oil producing Niger Delta that OPL 245 was one of the few oil blocks awarded to someone from the region.
By 2010, Mr. Etete had schemed out other owners of Malabu, including by fraudulently altering Corporate Affairs Corporation, CAC, documents, investigations revealed.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the EFCC filed a nine-count corruption and money laundering charge against Mr. Etete, Mr. Adoke, and controversial businessman, Abubakar Aliyu, for their roles in the scam.
Mr. Adoke it was, who authorised the transfer of $801 million of the money paid by Shell and Eni to Malabu’s accounts controlled by Mr. Etete despite having prior knowledge of the latter’s previous criminalities including manipulation of company registration documents of Malabu.
The former attorney general has however denied any wrongdoing and has pledged to return to Nigeria to face charges.
Mr. Etete, who was once convicted for money laundering in France, subsequently transferred over $450 million of the money he received into the accounts of fictitious companies controlled by Mr. Aliyu who investigators believe was a front for interested parties and top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, including Mr. Adoke. Those four companies were also charged by the EFCC last week.
Mr. Etete would later tell a British Court that only $250 million of the money truly belonged to him. The €50 million cash the Italian, Mr. Casula, received in Abuja is believed to be part of the money transferred to Mr. Aliyu by Mr. Etete.