The EFCC has arraigned a former justice minister, Mohammed Adoke, in court for his alleged involvement in the controversial $1.2bn Malabu oil deal.
He was arraigned on a 42-count charge on Thursday alongside six others before Justice Idris Kutigi of the Gwagwalada Division of the FCT High Court. The charges were amended to 42 from an initial 12.
The former attorney-general is also being tried at the Federal High Court on separate charges.
On Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Adoke’s trial was stalled due to the failure of the EFCC to serve the charges on some of the defendants.
But the former attorney-general had his charges read to him. Those of Aliyu Abubakar and Rasky Gbinigie were also read to them.
The fifth, sixth and seventh defendants, which are Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration Ultral Deep Limited, and, Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company, were represented by their legal counsel. Only the fourth defendant, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, had no legal representation in court.
The EFCC had been pursuing Mr Adoke for his alleged role in the controversial transfer of Nigeria’s OPL 245 oil field.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how almost half of the $1.1 billion paid by Shell and Eni in a controversial OPL 245 deal brokered by Mr Adoke and some other officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration ended in accounts controlled by Mr Aliyu.
The oil multinationals paid the money through the Nigerian government to Malabu, a company then controlled by Dan Etete, a former petroleum minister who is on the run.
Malabu, which was illegally awarded OPL 245 when Mr Etete was a minister in 1998, then transferred about half of the money into accounts partly controlled by Mr Aliyu.
The EFCC alleges that Mr Aliyu distributed the money to some top officials of Shell and Eni as well as some officials of the Jonathan administration.
The EFCC also said Mr Adoke received N300 million from Mr Aliyu in 2013 as his share of the Malabu windfall.
Shell, Eni, and their officials are already being prosecuted in Italy for the scandal.
Mr Adoke has denied any wrongdoing and said the actions taken in respect of the transfer of the block were based on the instructions of former President Goodluck Jonathan and in the best interest of Nigeria.
In 2015, the former minister went on a self-imposed exile outside Nigeria.
He eventually travelled to Dubai where he was arrested by Interpol at the prompting of the EFCC.
Upon his return to Nigeria, he was arrested at the Abuja airport and handed over to the EFCC on December 19.
The EFCC secured an initial court order to hold Mr Adoke for 14 days following his arrest in Abuja.
Thursday Court Session
All the defendants on trial pleaded not guilty to the charges read to them by the clerk of the court.
The lead counsel to the EFCC, Bala Sanga, thereafter, prayed the court to remand Mr Adoke, Mr Abubakar and Mr Gbinigie at the Kuje correctional services facility.
Kanu Agabi, counsel to Mr Adoke, objected and asked for the defendants to be remanded in the EFCC custody. He said his client had already filed an application for bail.
Mike Ozekhome, a member of Mr Adoke’s legal team, also pleaded to Justice Kutigi that his client should be kept in EFCC custody instead of the correctional service in Kuje Abuja.
“My lord, the Kuje prison is a fashionable name for prison. I appeal to the court to allow Mr Adoke be kept at the EFCC custody for his health sake,” he said.
Ola Olanipekun, counsel to the second defendant, Mr Abubakar, also urged the defendants to be kept in EFCC custody. He explained that since it was the federal government that was prosecuting the defendants, there was not much of a difference keeping them with the anti-graft agency.
But Mr Sanga objected. He also said the bail applications were filed on Thursday afternoon.
“Application for the first defendant’s bail was filed at about 3:15 p.m., the second defendant’s application was filed at 2:03 p.m., and the third defendant’s own was filed at 2:54 p.m.
The EFCC counsel added that keeping Mr Adoke and the two defendants in its custody would overcrowd the commission’s facility.
Mr Agabi later asked Justice Kutigi to use his discretion on the issue.
Mr Kutigi called for a short recess, urging the counsel to come to an agreement on an adjourned date for the bail application.
After the recess, Mr Olanipekun said the counsel had agreed to meet on Monday, January 27.
The prosecution counsel affirmed the agreement, adding that it should be subject to the ruling of the court.
Justice Kutigi adjourned the case till Monday for the continuation of the trial and review of the bail application.