- Court adjourns till Thursday
BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA –Confusion trailed the much-publicised arraignment of former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke on Wednesday following non-service of court papers on some defendants in the alleged corruption case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Idris Kutigi, sitting at the FCT High Court in Gwagwalada adjourned the arraignment of Adoke and six others till Thursday, January 23, 2020 after realising the proceedings could not go on because EFCC failed to serve the charges on most defendants in the suit before him.
Despite submissions by counsels representing the defendants, yet to be served, that they were willing to waive their right of service by the EFCC for the arraignment to take place, Justice Kutigi insisted the trial could not proceed when the 4th defendant not represented by a lawyer has not been served.
Contained in the EFCC’s 42 counts filed against the defendants are allegations of giving and receiving gratifications as well as forgery of documents.
Adoke is being charged alongside Aliyu Abubakar, who was accused of offering N300m gratification to the ex-AGF; a former company secretary and legal adviser of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Rasky Gbinigie.
Other defendants include the Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.
In the charges, the anti-graft agency is alleging among others that as a public officer serving as the AGF, Adoke in August 2013, accepted from Aliyu Abubakar ‘a gratification of US dollars equivalent of N300m other than lawful remuneration as a motive for facilitating and negotiating the Block 245 resolution agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Limited.”
In a document with charge number CR/151/2020 dated January 14 and filed on January 15, 2020 at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Government is accusing Adoke and others of receiving gratification to allegedly carry out a fraudulent oil deal against Nigeria’s interest.
According to documents supporting the government case, as Attorney-General, Adoke mediated and presided over the controversial agreements that ceded OPL 245 to Shell and Eni who in turn paid about 1.1 billion dollars to accounts controlled by former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
The offence is said to be punishable under section 115(a) of the Penal Code and punishable under section 115 (i) of the same Penal Code.
All the defendants, except Malabu, were represented in court by their lawyers on Wednesday. However. an official of the company, who was in court, told the judge that they have not been served with the charges by EFCC.
This position was confirmed by the prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, who admitted that only three of the companies – Agip, and the two Nigerian subsidiaries of Shell had been served.
Sanga explained that the anti-corruption agency could not serve the second defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, with the charges because he had on the run and was only taken in earlier on Wednesday.
But Aliyu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), protested the prosecution’s claim, insisting that his client has always been available and was never on the run.
Similarly, there were also protests from Adoke’s lawyers, Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who accused the EFCC of refusing to serve the charges of 42 counts on their client despite that he had been in the agency’s custody since December 19, 2020.
Also, Rasky Gbinigie’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), who spoke about the non-service of the charges on his client, told the court that though Gbinigie was arrested and detained by the Commission on Tuesday, he is yet to be served.
But respite came for the EFCC when counsel representing the two Shell companies, Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), confirmed that on their part, his clients had been served.