Justice Othman Musa of an Abuja High Court yesterday said he was returning the case file of Mohammed Adoke, a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), to the chief judge of the Federal Capital Territory. Musa said this at the resumed sitting scheduled for hearing of Adoke’s bail application over the $1.2 billion Malabu oil scam.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in 2017 filed charges against Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Adoke, and 10 others over the matter. EFCC in the suit marked FCT/HC/CR/124/17 accused the defendants of fraudulently allocating Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, otherwise known as Malabu Oil. They were also accused of other forms of offences including forgery of bank documents, bribery, and corruption.
The alleged money scam involved the transfer of the OPL 245, purportedly from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, to Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited. Benson Igbanoi, the counsel who represented Adoke, informed the court that he would not be able to move the bail application because the prosecution had just served him with its preliminary objection.
“This morning, we were served with a counter affidavit to our motion filed on December 23,” he said. “By reason of the facts raised in the counter affidavit, which call for further affidavits and also a need for reply on point of law, we are therefore constrained to ask for a short adjournment to enable us to respond accordingly,” Igbanoi added.
Responding, Bala Sanga, the prosecuting counsel, reminded the court that there is an existing order permitting the EFCC to detain Adoke for 14 days. He said the order, which was granted on December 20, would expire January 2, 2020. Justice Musa, a vacation judge, said he would not be available to hear the application when the order expires. He said he would return the case file to the chief judge for further action.
Adoke was picked up on December 19 by Interpol on his arrival from Dubai at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and handed over to the EFCC. Musa had earlier granted the EFCC an order seeking to hold the former minister in its custody for 14 days. The order was to enable the anti-graft agency to conclude its investigation on Adoke over corruption allegations.
Adoke returned to the country after five years of self-exile in Dubai. In granting the application, the judge stated that “the extension of the remand of the respondent for another 14 days for the purpose of his arraignment in court is necessary and granted as prayed.” The anti-graft agency took custody of Adoke on December 19, 2019, upon his arrival from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Adoke, who fled the country in 2015, has pending criminal charge of alleged abuse of office and money laundering in respect of the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI.
It would be recalled that the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the OPL 245, which the late General Sani Abacha granted Dan Etete, his then Petroleum Minister, and reassigned it to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCO. Etete’s Malabu Oil and Gas, however, reclaimed the oil block in 2006 through the court. While Shell challenged the decision, a ‘fraudulent settlement and resolution’ was consummated under President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, with Shell and ENI buying the oil block from Malabu in the sum of $1.1billion.
Investigations by the EFCC into the deal revealed crimes that border on conspiracy, forgery of bank documents, bribery, corruption and money laundering to the tune of over $1.2 billion against Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep (SNUD), Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) and their officials, culminating in criminal charges against Adoke, Etete and others, which are pending in both the FCT High Court and the Federal High Court, Abuja
The absence of the defendants slowed the prosecution of the suspects, forcing the EFCC to obtain an arrest warrant against them on April 17, 2019. Adoke, however, arrived the country on Thursday, December 19, 2019, from Dubai, United Arab Emirates into the waiting arms of EFCC operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. His return has now cleared the way for him to answer to the charges against him. Justice Musa adjourned the case to enable its assignment by the Chief Judge.