By Mohammed Bello Adoke
My attention has been drawn to the above captioned publication by one Samuel Ogundipe in the Premium Times of May 5, 2018. The publication which can at best be described as ‘fake news’ is nothing but an elaborate attempt at dressing up falsehood to pass as truth and substituting reality with fiction in order to misinform undiscerning members of the public, denigrate my person and cause disaffection and ill-will between me and my principal, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR who gave me the rare opportunity to serve this great country in the capacity of Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The false and malicious publication by Samuel Ogundipe placed heavy reliance on a so called recorded telephone call placed by one Carlarmaria Rumor of RAI Television in Italy on November 5 2015 wherein I was quoted to have stated that:” Dan Etete collaborated with some Italian Oil workers to divert some funds to foreign accounts in an illegal move that betrayed the spirit of a tripartite agreement which the Nigerian Government entered into with Italian oil giant Agip-Eni and Royal Dutch Shell on the one hand and Malabu Oil and Gas limited on the other hand.”
I want to place it on record that I did not grant any telephone interview to Carlamaria Rumor or any other person in respect of OPL 245 Settlement Agreement. The said Carla Maria is unknown to me, has never spoken to me and I could therefore not have granted her a 1 hour 17 minutes phone interview. I have checked RAI Television website, but the said Carla maria Rumor is not listed either as a TV or print journalist with RAI Television. This is clearly a case of a phantom RAI journalist that exists only in the figment of the imagination of Samuel Ogundipe. Furthermore, Micheal Nomah whom Ogundipe claims to have contacted to react to his fake story is also unknown to me and has never represented me on any legal issue.
Ogundipe’s malice and mischief became quite evident when he stated in his publication that: “Mr Adoke, AGF from 2010-2015, admitted that Mr Etete, an ex-convict, was actively involved in the talks held between Nigerian government officials, representatives of Agip-Eni, Shell and other players. This indicates that Mr Adoke recognised Mr Etete as the owner of Malabu Oil and Gas and dealt with him accordingly, thereby sidestepping Mohammed Abacha and other beneficial owners of the controversial oil firm, “thereby giving the impression that I deliberately choose to deal with Dan Etete to the exclusion of other known beneficial owners of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
He however did not reckon with the fact that since 2001, Dan Etete had been the only person that engaged successive governments on behalf of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. He was effectively the alter ego of the company to knowledge of all government officials involved in the negotiation and implementation of OPL 245 Settlement Agreement. Mr. Mohammed Abacha only appeared on the scene when the Settlement Agreement had been executed and implemented. However, realising that his claims to part ownership of the shares in Malabu Oil and Gas Limited amounted to a shareholder dispute, I accordingly advised him to go to court to assert his claims as the court was the only proper forum to effectively resolve such shareholder dispute.
Mr Ogundipe also went to great length in the publication to impute improper conduct on my part by alluding to the so-called “cozying up and offering Millions” to the phantom Ms Rumor. However, any discerning mind would see through his tissue of lies. What will be the motive for asking for a ‘relationship’ from a person that I have never met or spoken to in exchange for information that was not exclusive to me and already in the public space? Nigerians know that I am not a stakeholder in Malabu, Agip-Eni or Shell, neither did I benefit from the proceeds of the sale of OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas limited. If indeed if I was given 2.2 million Dollars for the OPL 245 transaction as alleged by the EFCC, why would I be offering to give the money to the imaginary journalist? How on earth would any one believe that I could talk so carelessly and recklessly to a journalist that I had never met in person, when indeed, I am fully aware of the clandestine plans to nail me at all cost? It is simply incredulous.
Mr Ogundipe also alluded to the existence of a tape, which according to him forms part of the Exhibits in the Milam/Italian proceedings. I first heard of the existence of such a tape in a publication by Vrij Nederland 26th October 2017 with the caption: “Shell in Nigeria: Corrupt Constructions.” I caused my Solicitors to write to Vrij Nederland protesting the libelous publication and requested that they disclose the tape, and details where the alleged interview took place, including relevant date. Vrij Nederland declined to name their sources and the disclosures requested by me on the alleged tape despite my absolute denial of the interview alleged.
The disclosure requested was to afford the parties interested in the tape recording to subject it to forensic analysis to determine the genuineness of the recorded tape and of the telephone interview alleged. I am informed by objective sources as well as sources from the Italian proceedings that the content of the alleged tape recording of the supposed interview on many aspect of the interview with the “Report” ‘appears (on the face of it) wrong and out of question to such a point,’ to the extent many top ranking officials of the party engaged in the current Milan/Italian proceedings, believe my voice/content of the tape recording of the interview alleged have been manipulated by the Report Journalist cited in the Premium Times Publication. The Party referred is understood to be currently seeking technical expertise from phonic court experts to test whether the voice in the file of the interview as utilized by the journalist has been fabricated. This is in addition to my absolute denial of the tape recording and the telephone interview with the Report journalist as alleged. But Ogundipe did not deem it necessary to exercise such caution in his publication because of his burning desire to satisfy his paymasters. He threw caution to the wind and made sweeping statements and conclusions that not only defy logic, but also cannot stand objective scrutiny.
It is clear to me that Journalists in the mold of Ogundipe have taken the seeming inertia on the part of our courts to grant punitive damages as a licence to libel and defame people at will. One is minded to caution that the consequences of this kind of yellow journalism will not go unpunished for long. Our Courts are gradually waking up to this challenge and before long; the likes of Ogundipe and those who offer them platforms to carryout their nefarious activities will be held accountable through the legal process.
I therefore want to appeal to well meaning Nigerians especially my colleagues, friends and family who read the fake story and were alarmed by the extent of malice and falsehood therein to disregard the story in its entirety and be mindful of the fact that Ogundipe’s publication was only designed to achieve the followings:
(a) pitch me against my Principal, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR whom I hold in high regard with a view to causing ill will and disaffection between us;
(b) down play the significance of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja Coram Hon. Justice Binta Murtala Nyako which upheld the extent of presidential powers under our Constitution and declared that I acted within the confines of the Presidential Directives/ approvals given to me as a Minister of the Government of the Federation and therefore incurred no personal liability for implementing the OPL 245 Settlement Agreement, and
(c) denigrate my person, attract public opprobrium and lower my estimation in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
But since his publication is based on malicious falsehood, he has failed to achieve his objectives and has in the process opened himself and the Premium Times up for a libel suit.
I therefore give Samuel Ogundipe and the Premium Times 48 Hours notice within which to retract the offending publication, tender an unreserved apology in the Premium Times and two other National Newspapers with wide circulation in Nigeria, failure upon which I shall not hesitate to instruct my Solicitors to immediately commence legal action against them to redress this unacceptable conduct.
Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, CFR