A former Nigerian Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to withdraw its case against him at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr Adoke, in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES, said the anti-graft agency must take the step because of the “damning revelations” coming from the ongoing trial of Shell and ENI in Italy.
In a press statement he issued on Saturday in response to media claims by the EFCC that it had established a prima facie case bothering on corruption against him on the OPL 245 transaction, Mr Adoke said the in-coming Attorney-General of the Federation needs to put an end to “this joke of a trial by the EFCC”.
The former AGF claimed there is no shred of evidence to convict him of wrongdoing.
The controversial Malabu scandal involves the transfer of about $1.1 billion by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete.
Prosecutors alleged that half the money ($520 million) went to the accounts of companies jointly controlled by Abubakar Aliyu, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil, and Mr Etete.
Investigators and activists suspect Mr Aliyu fronted for top officials of Mr Jonathan’s administration, as well of officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Mr Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers, and the money was payment for the block, considered one of Nigeria’s most lucrative.
Mr Adoke, who has been on self-exile since he left office, served as AGF in that government.
Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Mr Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false.
Shell later admitted it did know the money would go to Mr Etete. Shell, Eni, Mr Etete, Mr Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Nigeria and Italy for their roles in the scandal.
Last week, the EFCC said Mr Adoke abused his office in granting OPL 245 to Shell and ENI in 2011. The anti-graft agency said it should have arraigned the former AGF over the oil block but he absconded.
But Mr Adoke in his response said details from court proceeding have shown that the EFCC has no case againts him.
He said: “The ongoing trial of Shell and ENI officials in Italy has exposed the lies that EFCC has been cooking up against me. Mr. Ednan Tofik ogly Agaev, a former Russian ambassador, said in court that he mentioned my name as one of those who benefited from the OPL 245 deal because of pressure from the FBI. He said the FBI interview cannot be used against him in court. That is an eye-opener for those who are interested in justice.
“A few days later, Mr. Vincenzo Armanna, former ENI manager, told the same court that I confronted ENI officials that if any one gave bribe, they would be arrested and prosecuted. These statements were made in the open court and reported by the media globally. Yet the same EFCC, in a strange press release on Thursday, said the statements in the Italian court are of no relevance to the criminal charge against me in Nigeria.
“Ironically, the EFCC had used the same case in Italy as evidence that my trial in Nigeria should continue contrary to the advice of the Office of the AGF. Suddenly, the trial in Italy is of no relevance again because it does not fit into their predetermined agenda against me.”
The former AGF claimed that OPL 245 was not even awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd by President Goodluck Jonathan, under whose administration he served as Attorney-General.
“It was awarded by Gen. Sani Abacha in 1998.” he said. “It was revoked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who later decided to return the oil block to Malabu after an out-of-court settlement. The only thing I did as AGF was to advise President Jonathan that legally speaking, the Consent Judgement reached by Obasanjo was valid and subsisting and should be respected.
“At the time, Shell was making an arbitral claim of $2 billion against Nigeria over President Obasanjo’s decision to return the oil block to Malabu in 2006. Ordinarily, I should be commended for helping my country avoid such a huge fine.
“Nevertheless, it is nothing but unadulterated mischief by the EFCC to say I am being tried for granting an oil block to Malabu. Even a primary school pupil knows that the Attorney-General does not award oil blocks. All oil blocks are awarded by the President on the advice of the Ministry of Petroleum. It is part of the evil agenda and vendetta against me that I would be accused of awarding an oil block, as the EFCC shamelessly claimed in their bizarre press release.”
Mr Adoke argued that JP Morgan, which made the payments to Malabu, did not mention his name in court as one of those who authorised the payment.
He said: “These are now public documents. I was not a signatory to the account. I had no powers to order payments. All I gave was legal advice on the letters of the Resolution Agreement, but EFCC’s puppet masters were so desperate to come after me that they painted me as corrupt and attributed all the powers I didn’t have to me.
“The Federal High Court under the Hon. Justice Binta Nyako ruled that I was not liable for carrying out lawful presidential orders, but the EFCC has now assumed the role of interpreting the court judgment as it suits their whims and caprices, even openly showing absolute disrespect for the office of the AGF.”
The former AGF also said it was shameful that “vultures have taken over the system and are now lording it over the constitution” in a democracy that thrives on law and order.
He added: “How can EFCC say I absconded to Europe? I was already out of the country studying at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands when the persecution started, so how can they say I ran away? Was there any pending case against me? I left Nigeria in June 2015 for further studies. Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who is being manipulated to fight me, assumed office in November 2015. How then could I have run away from him and his collaborators five months ahead? Did I foreknow that my traducers would put their stooge as EFCC Chairman?
“The most ridiculous aspect of this joke is that the EFCC case of money laundering filed against me over a mortgage account I never operated was not about Malabu. Nigerians have been given the impression by the EFCC spin masters that I was charged to court for money laundering over OPL 245 and Malabu.
“In the real sense, nowhere did EFCC mention Malabu or OPL 245 in the court papers. It was ‘wuruwuru’ to the answer. Their case has crumbled and they know it but they have become so reckless that they are not ready to stop wasting tax payers money on frivolous court cases. I will come home to defend myself after attending to my health. There are no questions about that.”