In this third and final part of his interview with PREMIUM TIMES, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, speaks about the roles he and some other officials of the Goodluck Jonathan government played in what has become known as the Malabu OPL 245 saga. He also opens up on his next plans.
In that first part, Mr Adoke spoke about how his government took the decision to prosecute APC leader, Bola Tinubu, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, how he and his colleagues persuaded former President Goodluck Jonathan to concede defeat in 2015, how he was abused and called a useless attorney general by Mrs Jonathan, among other issues.
In the second part, he spoke about the Justice Ayo Salami saga, the Halliburton bribery scandal, the controversy over the Pfizer drug trial and his relationships with Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Olarenwaju Suraju and the Abacha family.
PT: Let’s now talk about the Malabu OPL 245 issue. Your name is repeatedly mentioned everywhere for your role as the Attorney General of Nigeria who sealed the contentious deal with Shell and Eni.
Adoke: I didn’t seal the deal.
PT: You signed the agreement. Is that not the case?
Was I the only one that signed the agreement? I have been maligned. I’ve been persecuted, I’ve been destroyed virtually by those who want to destroy me using a cocktail of lies and misinformation, and unfortunately using so many platforms including your platform. This is an issue I have discussed extensively in my book, but I will give you a summary.
First, today they carry the story as if Jonathan government awarded the OPL 245 to Malabu. That is not true. The allocation of that oil bloc was done in 1998. It was not the only oil bloc, there were several oil blocs that were allocated at that time, and based on the policies of the government which was to encourage indigenous participation in the upstream sector of the oil and gas sector. There was OPL 246 given to South Atlantic, there was OPL 245. Find out, do your investigation about that. There were all these allocations that were done. In the process, General Abacha died and General Abdulsalami’s government came in.
General Abdulsalami revoked some of the oil blocs but never revoked OPL 245, OPL 246 and even the one given to (Folorunsho) Alakija, and some others. Then President Obasanjo came in in 1999 and continued with the transaction until 2001 when suddenly, due to reasons best known to the actors of that time, they revoked the oil blocs. And after revoking they called on certain oil majors to come and bid. Shell bided for it at a signature bonus of $210 million dollars as opposed to the $20 million discretionary allocations that were given to these select indigenous participants to enable them to have a say in the oil and gas sector.
After the revocation of these oil blocs, Chief Dan Etete has always been the face of Malabu. Nobody saw anything wrong with it at that time. He even petitioned the House of Representatives at that time and there was a public hearing. Nobody challenged the propriety or otherwise of a former minister getting an oil bloc allocated to him by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
The House of Representatives under the speakership of Ghali Na’Abba came up with a resolution saying that the revocation was wrongful, illegal, and should be returned to Malabu. There was nothing wrong about that. When the government did not implement on time, Malabu went to court. They were in court for a long time until there was a settlement which was reduced into a consent judgement in 2006. Nobody saw anything wrong with it.
Shortly after the consent judgement, President Obasanjo left office, the Yar’Adua government came in, Shell and co. tried to peddle their influence to get this bloc again because they claimed they had already de-risked the bloc and invested over $550 million, and nobody said anything about it at that time.
By that time, Shell had paid a signature bonus of $1million into the account of government and paid $209 million into an escrow account pending the outcome of the litigation. The question any reasonable person would ask is: “who was the official of government that gave Shell the go-ahead to “de-risk” the bloc that created the problem for Nigeria? Because if Shell had not gone ahead to de-risk or given the mandate to de-risk, it wouldn’t have had any claim or nerve to go for arbitration. But nobody is asking this vital question. Now, they were given the mandate and they went ahead and de-risked. And what did Yar’adua do? He tried to resolve the matter by setting up an inter-ministerial committee headed by Chief Michael Aondoaka as chairman. There were so many other people in that committee, including Hon. Minister of State on Petroleum, Odein Ajumogbobia, and some other people.
Then a resolution was reached. In that resolution, a certain amount of money was to have been paid by Shell to Malabu. They were supposed to be given a certain percentage in the transaction. President Yar’Adua died at the time the agreement was to be signed. After we came in, the issue resurfaced. Shell was already in arbitration claiming over $2 billion from the government. While they were claiming this $2 billion, we implemented the out-of-court settlement.
So it was not an allocation. The Attorney General does not allocate oil bloc. It was a dispute and the settlement was domiciled in the office of the Attorney General right from the time of Chief Bayo Ojo, Kaase Aondoaka, until it came to my time. I want you to look at this transition. Everybody has cut away this historical trajectory because they were not working for a credible answer, including your good self. I mean Premium Times. This was the issue up till that time.
When there was a breakdown in communication between Shell since it was the earlier agreement to be approved by President Yar’Adua but couldn’t be approved before he died. They then came to insist on its implementation because they have been given the bloc 100%. Look at the term of the settlement, it was 100%. What did Shell do? Shell used their dominant position in the market to enter a caveat worldwide that nobody should deal with Malabu on OPL 245 because they have an interest. So, there was a catch 22 situation for all of them.
At the end of the day, Shell came with ENI and ENI approached the government to say “look, we are trying to deal with Malabu and OPL 247 and Shell has an interest and we want to go with Shell on a joint venture to acquire this bloc from Malabu”.
The most irresponsible thing that Shell and ENI did was to deny knowing that they were dealing with Malabu. It was the most bizarre and most scandalous thing to do ever. I still feel bitter for that kind of white elephant lie.
Now, who did they discuss with? They came up with a resolution agreement. We said “No, that is not the way we work in government”. As a professional, knowing my limit, I sent the resolution agreement they came up with to DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources). Dr. Obaje now listed out his observations. As a result of that observation, we then said “fine, we cannot go on with this transaction until there is an inter-ministerial committee to renegotiate the resolution agreement and take cognisance of all the issues that Chief Obaje had identified”.
So, a committee from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC, DPR, Ministry of Finance, FIRS and Ministry of Justice sat down and negotiated this resolution agreement and came up with resolution agreement and that was how the issue of government trying to buy into the bloc was inserted. That was the outcome of the negotiation. Even after they negotiated the resolution agreement, myself and the ministers that signed did not sign until it was sent to the president, and the president gave his approval. So, where have I gone wrong? How did that amount to allocation of oil bloc? I didn’t allocate an oil bloc. The State House counsel also represented the president in negotiating this agreement and all these people are alive.
Does it not beat your imagination that out of all these people, it is only Adoke that was singled out for attack? After the whole transaction was done, with all the presidential approval, you saw the JP Morgan report, you saw all those who authorised payment. Did you see Adoke’s name there? But because everybody was working to a preconceived answer, they must get a top government official to use as a scapegoat. So that the matter will die down and everybody will go home. But Adoke will not sit down and allow himself and his generation yet unborn to be destroyed. I needed to state my story.
Now you can begin to put things together on why they desperately wanted me and why it is at the expense of my life.
Now, when the money was paid, there were those who claimed to have worked with Malabu to source ENI to acquire the interest. They went to court in London and the court gave a restraining order saying that a certain amount of money, I think it was about $280 million should not be disbursed. JP Morgan wrote to me in my capacity as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Was I supposed to tell JP Morgan not to obey the order? I told JP Morgan ‘Obey every court order given to you until set aside. If it does not affect the rest of the money, give it to the beneficiaries.’ That was all I did.
You have seen the various letters of the current Attorney General. You have also seen my court judgment. I went to court not because I want to challenge the government but I wanted to establish the limits of the president’s power, and I think that has been well defined. The court not only said the president has the power but it said that the instructions carried out by me were lawful instructions of Mr President.
PT: The expectation was that you were going to advise the administration to simply nullify the allocation of the block to Malabu because the company had a fictitious character as director from the start.
Adoke: How can I advise? I would not have advised that. How can I advise the president to nullify by executive fiat a judgment of the court?
PT: But you could have advised the president to reconsider the transaction especially given that Etete had used fictional characters in the incorporation of Malabu.
Adoke: That was not in our knowledge and even if it were in our knowledge the only thing to do was to go to court because the court had already given a consent judgment. We were implementing a judgment of a court. I was not giving administrative advice. This man had been the face of this thing all this while. These characters that are now talking they knew all this but did not bring it to the knowledge of the government until, like in all situations, it was time to share and they had difficulties. Then they started saying it was a fictional character.
PT: So, are you saying you never knew Etete’s name has never been in the list of directors or shareholders of Malabu?
Adoke: Whether he is in the list of directors or shareholders or not, who has always been the face of Malabu? Please, let us not drag on too far. Etete has always been the face of Malabu. Those who claim that they have a stake, why didn’t they challenge it at that time? Why didn’t they place a disclaimer on him? The law says equity aids the vigilant, and not the indolent. One of the people claiming equity now, why didn’t he use his full name? Why was he using the fictitious name? He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. He who seeks equity shall do equity.
PT: So you are saying in all of these, you did no wrong?
Adoke: If I did any wrong, I will own up to it and apologize to the whole nation. And if I am confronted with the same situation that I was confronted with again, and given the directives by the government, as attorney general, I will do exactly what I did. I told you something which you need to go and dig deeper. What led to the crisis in OPL 245? You are acclaimed investigative journalists. Go and find out what led to the precursor of what happened? Go and find out the precursor of what happened with OPL 245.
PT: Why not help us with some clarity on that?
Adoke: What you are going to investigate for now is not meant for the consuming public. Before it gets to the public you need to investigate first. Go and find out the circumstances under which those oil blocs were awarded and who are the real owners of those oil blocs.
PT: You said you did nothing wrong. After the money was paid to Malabu, the funds were distributed in a way that suggested Malabu gave money to some officials.
Adoke: Did you see my name? Let me tell you something. The matter is subjudice. It is in court. Like I say, be patient to read my book.
PT: Are you saying you did not benefit from all the money shared by Malabu?
Adoke: I did not. And by the special grace of God I have not done anything wrong, and time and events will prove this.
PT: But the EFCC is alleging that you had a transaction with Alhaji Aliyu of AA Oil through whom Malabu spread money to some suspicious accounts.
Adoke: This is what I am telling you. Look, I showed you the mortgage transaction I had. I bought a house from him. When I became a minister, my SSS people said my house is not safe and I told them that it is their duty to secure us. If I wanted to build a house, how long would it take me to build a house? So I needed to buy. I started looking for a house to buy and I saw a house and they said it belonged to a man I know. I called him and he said he was going to sell it to me at N500million and I agreed because of the location.
I didn’t have that amount of money then. I approached my bankers, Unity Bank. I told them this is the transaction I have and this is what I wanted. They agreed to fund the transaction. I was to pay an equity contribution of N200million. I had a plot of land that was given to me by Bala Mohammed (then FCT minister) in my name. The bank paid directly to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar. They paid it directly to his company, not that the money came to me.
Somewhere along the line, timelines were not being met to pay back the loan and I couldn’t even sell the land to pay the N200million equity participation and at the same time the loan was going bad and I have to be paying interest. It was a five-year term loan. So, the owner of the property came to me, which was still under construction and said since I cannot pay him the N200 million, CBN wants to buy the house and said he should sell it to them since I don’t have proprietary on the property yet. He asked for the certificate but I said I don’t have the certificate. I directed him to the bank, Unity Bank, who paid him the money and took the certificate.
I called the MD of the bank and thanked him for the loan offer while asking him to take the cash from Alhaji Aliyu and release the property’s certificates in the custody of the bank. The man paid the bank directly. Whether he paid them in dollars I don’t know. It was not me that went to the bureau de change. It was the bank that called the bureau de change people to change the money. They calculated how much the cost of a dollar was at the time. They collected the money and the bank released the certificate to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar. Aliyu Abubakar sold the house to CBN. He had already sold the house. I think it was part of the money CBN gave him that he used because they needed to get the certificate from him.
The question you should be asking yourself is: They said he laundered money for me, he paid for my mortgage, then where is the proceed of the money? Where is the house? Why is it that the EFCC did not attach the mortgage or go for forfeiture of the house? That is the question you should have asked. That is what we call investigative journalism. That is the money laundering they said I committed.
PT: So, beyond that, there was no transaction between you and Alhaji Aliyu?
Adoke: He is from my village. All of us are from Okene. He is from Ihima area, I am from Nagazi. But beyond that, there is no transaction of money between us. But then somebody must get you. It would interest you to know that the person who wrote the petition on the mortgage issue was brought by one Suraj Olanrewaju who is close to the diminutive so-called human rights lawyer I mentioned earlier. They are working hand in hand to unnecessarily disparage me.
PT: When are you returning home? The EFCC says you have a case to answer in court.
Adoke: That is a very important question and to be frank with you I am eager to come back. As I told you, I had a very serious health challenge. I am not a man that would be going about talking about it to generate pity. I don’t want to be pitied by anybody. I don’t want pity, I want justice. I want to face prosecution, not persecution.
The issue is: if I had come back to Nigeria at the time they wanted me to come, it is possible that my health would have deteriorated, and I would not have been able to address it. I am having surgery very soon and immediately after that I would head back to Nigeria. If I am not in Nigeria by the end of July, I should be back by September. I am coming back to Nigeria. I am not going to go anywhere.
PT: There were others like you who were on some kinds of exile. But they seem to have negotiated their way back to Nigeria. Don’t you have such a window?
Adoke: Negotiate what? I am not on political exile. I am not a politician. I was a professional in government. So, when people call me a politician, I laugh. I was not a card-carrying member of the PDP.
On the issue of negotiation, let me tell you this. I have been very badly damaged worldwide. I was a member of the International Law Commission. I am sure you know how prestigious that body is. It is a 34-member body of the United Nations responsible for the progressive development and codification of international law.
With that, if they malign you and you are in Nigeria unable to state your side of the story and all they do is to continue to churn out one-sided story, you will be in trouble. This is why I wrote my book. Like I said, I am very proud that I have written my book. It is one of the best achievements I have had.
Also, with the kind of lies that people like Olanrewaju Suraj and his Global Witness people are spreading about me, one need to clarify issues. If you notice, whenever they are telling the story (of Malabu OPL 245), they take it from the middle. They don’t give the history and the trajectory of the transactions from 1998. They take it from where it pleases them, and I have found time to address all that in my book.
I have suffered tremendously. I have suffered. But I am grateful to God that I am able to address the issues and by the grace of God, I will be fine. And certainly I am looking forward to returning to Nigeria at the most by the end of September.