Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, frowned at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for filing a late amended charge against a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
During the court session on Monday, the EFCC lawyer, Bala Sanga, informed the court that the anti-graft agency had filed an amended charge against Mr Adoke. He said the discovery of additional pieces of evidence necessitated the amendment of the charges filed on July 17.
Dissatisfied, Justice Ekwo said the EFCC had more than one month from the last adjourned date to amend and file charges against the defendants. He said the case ought to be given speedy dispensation considering the fact that it was filed in 2017.
The judge said: “From June 17 to July 17, you did nothing. That means you had one month and you didn’t file the amended charge. Just few days to the trial, you filed an amended charge. A few days to when trial is to commence.”
“Although you have freedom to amend your charge up to the time of judgement, I do not appreciate a situation where things are not done on time. This is a 2017 matter and I was thinking I could fast track it but now the prosecution has come up with an amendment,” he said.
“I do not have the amended charges in the court file so I cant say anything about the amended charge.”
Mr Sanga apologised to the court for the lateness in filing the charges. He begged the court for a stand down to enable him put things in order.
However, Justice Ekwo refused the request for a stand-down and adjourned the matter to August 4, for continuation of trial.
The EFCC, had on February 10 arraigned Mr Adoke and a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar, on seven counts. Mr Adoke had six counts while Mr Abubakar had one count.
The duo are also standing trial alongside others at the FCT High Court in Gwagwalada in Abuja, in respect of the Malabu oil transaction.
The two defendants pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge when read to them.
According to the anti-graft agency, the duo in September 2013, made payments (in naira and dollar), of about N300 million into the former AGF’s accounts.
This is in violation of various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, EFCC said.
Upon a petition by the anti-graft agency against the first trial judge, Binta Nyako in 2018, she recused herself from the case.
Subsequently, the case was transferred to Justice Ekwo and the accused persons were re-arraigned on June 17.
Following the amendment, the charges have now been increased to 14 count-charge.
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 the controversial OPL 245 deal brokered by Mr Adoke and some other officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration ended in accounts controlled by Mr Abubakar.
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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 Abubakar.
The EFCC alleges that Mr Abubakar distributed the money to some top officials of Shell and Eni as well as some officials of the Jonathan administration.
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 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 on 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, 2019.