•Adoke: court verdict vindicates me yet again
Deji Elumoye and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government yesterday reacted to the United Kingdom Commercial Court judgement that ruled that there was no evidence of fraud in the OPL 245 transaction between Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase Bank, saying it was studying the judgement.
However, former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke said the judgment once again vindicated him of any wrong doing in the Operating Oil License 245 otherwise known as Malabu Oil.
The Commercial Court of England and Wales had on Tuesday June 14, 2022, ruled on the matter in Case No CL-2017-000730 as contained in its 137-paged judgement.
An Italian court in 2021 also dismissed all corruption charges in the OPL 245 deal, discharging and acquitting all the defendants.
The Nigerian government in the judgement lost $1.7 billion claims against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011.
Reacting to the judgement on behalf of the Federal Government, Minister of information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke with newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, said the government’s lawyers would study the ruling and decide whether to appeal or not.
Commenting on the Court judgement, Mohammed said: “I also read the judgement. Malabu oil and I think strangely enough, the judge said we were not able to establish that we lost $1.7 billion.
“But I also read further that the lawyer said that they are studying the judgement and they will take the appropriate step on whether to appeal or not.”
Adoke said the judgement has once again vindicated him of any wrong doing in the Operating Oil License 245 otherwise known as Malabu Oil.
Reacting to the judgment, Adoke said, “it is very gratifying that foreign courts have declared over and over again that there were no fraudulent or corrupt practices involved in the OPL 245 Settlement Resolution.”
Although, he had maintained that he was not expecting a contrary judgment knowing well that he did no wrong and had served Nigeria with all honesty and every sense of duty and patriotism.
He observed that although he was not a party in the suit, the federal government through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, had, “caused all manner of false depositions to be made against me to paint the transaction with the tar of corruption to justify the spurious criminal proceedings instituted against me in Nigeria.”
In a statement dated June 14, the former AGF said he was particularly pleased with the outcome of the suit because if it were to be Nigerian courts, he would have been accused of buying justice by those who he claimed are hell-bent on tarnishing his name and destroying him for political reasons.
According to him all he did was to advise former President Goodluck Jonathan on the outcome of a consent judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja, which was implemented.
“President Jonathan asked me, as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, to give him legal advice on the validity and enforceability of the Out-of-Court Settlement entered by the Obasanjo Administration. After reviewing all the documents related to the oil block, I advised him that the Settlement Agreement dated 30th November 2006 had already been reduced into a subsisting Consent Judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
“My involvement in the entire OPL 245 saga was carrying out the lawful directives/approvals of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, to the effect that the Settlement Agreement was implemented.
“However, when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, some influential figures in his government deceived him into believing that Nigeria could get back the $1.1 billion that Shell/ENI paid to Malabu for OPL 245. They thought that by impugning the transaction and painting me with the tar of corruption, they would have a great chance in court,” he said.
Adoke claimed that part of the scheme, involved eliciting some activists and anti-corruption crusaders at home and abroad to scandalise his name by forging all kinds of documents to be used against him in local and foreign jurisdictions where the OPL 245 transaction was undergoing judicial scrutiny.
He expressed joy that in all the cases where he was a party and others where his name was severally mentioned had been dismissed by the respective courts.
“God is so good that in March 2021, an Italian court dismissed all corruption charges in the OPL 245 deal, discharging and acquitting all the defendants. Although I was not on trial, my name was frequently mentioned, but I came out unscathed. The court findings exonerated me of any blame or corrupt act.
“Not satisfied, the current Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, engaged lawyers to make all kinds of mindless and libellous allegations against me in Commercial Court in the UK in an attempt to make JP Morgan refund the $1.1bn paid to Malabu, along with supposed interests totaling $1.7 billion.
“The UK court has now dismissed the allegations of fraud. My name is cleared yet again. It is also worthy of note that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) investigated the OPL 245 deal and brought it to a close in October 2019 without any charges.
“Also, in April 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it could not prove any allegations of fraud or corruption and decided to close the investigation into the transaction.
“It is gratifying that those respected authorities in the US, the UK and Italy have all scrutinised the OPL 245 deal extensively and exhaustively without a single conviction whatsoever.
“I have been unjustly defamed locally and internationally, and my livelihood has been taken from me; however, I am grateful to friends, colleagues and well-wishers who have stood by me throughout this challenging and depressing period.
“Now that it is clear to all discerning minds that no fraud was perpetrated in the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement, the Attorney General of the Federation should be advised to refrain from wasting Nigeria’s hard-earned foreign exchange by way of legal fees on local and foreign counsel in a bid to prove the existence of a fraud that never was”, he added.
Meanwhile, at FEC yesterday, the federal government further approved the enactment of the Federal Fire and Rescue Service Establishment Act 2022.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, told newsmen that the proposed law was meant to replace the old law establishing the Fire Service, which has been in existence for 60 years.
According to him, the Council directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to fine tune the bill for onward transmission to the National Assembly for passage.
Also briefing, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, said FEC also approved N66.9 billion for the rehabilitation of Kashimbila-Takum-Chahchangi road in Taraba State, North-East Nigeria.
Fashola said the project would help boost the transportation network in Taraba State and the entire north-east.
The Council also approved N23.9 billion for the procurement of equipment for airports across the country.
Briefing on behalf of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the equipment to be procured include radio communication system for some control towers and instrument landing systems for some airports.
Mohammed said the communication tower had to be upgraded because the ones currently in use have aged and also to enhance better performance in the 12 airports in line with technological advancements and aviation industry’s best practices.
He added that N14 billion for the procurement of instrument landing systems for Lagos Abuja, Katsina and Portharcourt airports.
He also said the move was necessitated by the recent increase in the fleet of passengers across the four airports.