The police have interrogated an anti-corruption activist, Olanrewaju Suraju, over a forgery petition sent to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke.
Mr Adoke had sent the petition to the IGP office demanding a probe of an email evidence presented against him by prosecutors in Malabu trial in Milan, Italy.
The former attorney-general also later complained to the police that some people, one of whom he suspected to be Mr Suraju, circulated a fake tape purporting it to be that of an interview he had with an Italian journalist admitting that the Malabu transaction was a scam.
He said he granted no such interview but that a tape was concocted and circulated purporting him to have done so.
Both Shell and Eni along with their managers that were the main defendants in the case, were accused of paying bribes to Nigerian officials in respect of the OPL 245 oil block.
But they were recently acquitted by the Milan court in March.
In his petition dated February 5, Mr Adoke claimed that an email presented at the Italian court and purported to have originated from him, was “forged” and presented in court to “interfere with the course of justice.”
The former minister told the police in his petition that those behind the alleged forgery were unknown to him, but urged the police authorities to expose them.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr Suraju, who with other anti-corruption activists gave support to the Milan prosecutors, was detained over the probe into the forgery allegation by the (IGP) Monitoring Unit in Asokoro, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The interrogation was said to have continued Thursday.
Mr Suraju, who is the chair of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), was released on bail after meeting bail conditions Thursday.
He spoke with our reporter after his release, saying it was “corruption fighting back.”
He said, “This is a case of corruption fighting back, with Mr Adoke using the police to harass, not just the civil society, but at the same time using illegal means to accuse myself and my organisation of forging a document that was admitted in court as evidence in Milan, of which we had no previous connection and business with.”
He said both Mr Adoke and his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, who is also a former AGF earlier in time than Mr Adoke, refused to show up for interrogation, but rather chose to send “an unknown lawyer.”
Mr Suraju added that the complainant, through the lawyer sent to the interrogation session, deviated from the original allegation of forgery by raising fresh allegation of distribution of fake documents, while also trying to drag his organisation into the probe.
He said, “Not only that he refused to show up during interrogation, his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, didn’t show up.
“Only one unknown lawyer. He failed to introduce himself and rather said he was a friend to Adoke. He was around yesterday (Wednesday) and today (Thursday) falsely accusing us and attempting to move from case of forgery to distribution and circulation of information or fake documents and suddenly moving to the investigation of the organisation.”
Malabu deal, Adoke’s petition
Mr Adoke had, in his petition dated February 5, claimed that the email evidence presented against him at the Italian court was “forged”, even though he said those behind the matter were not known to him, but could be unmasked by security operatives.
In the petition, titled, ‘Forgery of Document for Purposes of Unlawful Interference With the Course of Justice,’ Mr Adoke urged the IGP to look into the email evidence as well as another audio evidence earlier presented against him in the trial.
The complaint came after the Milan court accepted the evidence sourced from U.S. banking giant JP Morgan as part of the Malabu OPL 245 corruption trial.
The OPL245 oil block, regarded as one of Africa’s richest, was controversially awarded to Malabu in 1998 by the then petroleum minister, Dan Etete, without making due payments for it to the Nigerian government.
Mr Etete owned 20 per cent of the block through a fictional character, Kwekwu Amafegha.
In its attempt to resolve a back-and-forth intense battle over the ownership of the highly resourceful block, former President Goodluck Jonathan administration in which Mr Adoke was the AGF, authorised the sale of the OPL 245 block in 2011.
Under the deal sanctioned by the Jonathan administration with the support of some of his then cabinet members, the block was controversially sold to oil giants, Shell and ENI, in 2011.
But the about $1.1 billion paid by the oil giants into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government ended up in Mr Etete’s accounts.
Milan prosecutors alleged that the oil giants and their executives involved in the Malabu deal knew that the $1.1 billion they deposited into the Nigerian government’s escrow account would be disbursed as bribes.
They alleged that from the accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about $520 million translating into half of the $1.1billion, went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA Oil.
Investigators alleged that Mr Abubakar fronted for top officials of the Mr Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI, although the two firms and their executives were recently exonerated of any wrongdoing concerning the Malabu deal.
The email evidence tendered by the prosecution and accepted by the Milan court despite the opposition by the defence during trial, tried to link Mr Adoke with Mr Abubakar.
Prosecutors claimed that Mr Adoke sent instructions about the transfer of OPL245 1.1$ billion payment by Eni and Shell from the email address of a certain A Group Properties, said to be owned by Mr. Abubakar.
But Mr Adoke along with Mr Aliyu are still standing trial in connection with the Malabu deal in Nigeria.
Mr Adoke, in his petition to the police, denied authoring the email as alleged.
He expressed shock at what he called the “unlawful design” and “collusion” with the prosecutors in Milan, which resulted in the “forgery” of the evidence.
He said he was no longer in office as the AGF when the email was allegedly sent on June 21, 2011 “owing to the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council” by then President Jonathan.
Mr Adoke said he was only re-appointed into office on July 2, 2011, adding that within the period the email was allegedly sent, he was abroad and never had any dealings with official matters of the state.
He also said the prosecutors claimed the email was sent by “Mohammed Bello Adoke”, but he never signed off correspondences without adding the suffix “SAN”, which was not contained in the email in question.
Mr Adoke also claimed that he could never have sent an email from another person’s email while using his name. He described such conduct as “nonsensical” and distanced himself from the claim.
He argued further that even if he had any reason to use another person’s mail, he had a retinue of aides who could help him out.
‘HEDA’s allies ask U.K to probe Adoke’s forgery allegation’
Mr Suraju’s organisation, HEDA, had in a recent statement, noted that it, with some “leading global coalition against corruption, including Re-Common, Water House and a host of others, “provided technical assistance in exposing alleged corrupt practices involving Oil giants, Eni and Shell.”
HEDA stated in the statement that The Corner House, one of its U.K. allies, petitioned the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Dominic Raab, over Mr Adoke’s forgery allegation.
The organisation stated that the petitioner called on the U.K. authorities to probe the allegation which, according to it “represents a challenge to the United Kingdom legal institution.”
A copy of the petition was said to have been sent to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
“The Corner House cautioned the Nigerian police to recognise the international dimension the case has taken and not to allow individuals to subvert the institutions of justice in Nigeria.
“The group said the proper place for Adoke to have challenged the veracity of the email was in the court room in Milan where it was used as evidence against him and the oil giants,” the statement added.
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