Again, EFCC fails to arraign Adoke, others over Malabu oil deal
Trial adjourned till Feb 2018
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday failed again to arraign former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke and eight others at the Federal High Court, Abuja, over their alleged involvement in the sale of Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245, otherwise known as Malabu oil.
Adoke, as well as the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Dan Etete, Aliyu Abubakar, Ralph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujatti Stefeno, Burrafati Sebestiano and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited are being accused of conspiring and defrauding the Federal Government of billions of naira ($1.1 billion) in a shady oil block deal.
He is being particularly accused of playing a major role in the fraudulent deal that saw to the transfer of ownership of Malabu oil to two multinational oil companies – Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited.
When the matter was called yesterday, EFCC could not go ahead with the arraignment due to the absence of Adoke and Etete in court, thereby forcing Justice John Tsoho, to adjourn trial till February 15, 2018.
The prosecuting counsel, Johnson Ojogbane, informed the court that the situation remained the same since the last adjourned date of June 16. Accordingly, to him, “the process of getting the defendants to appear in court to face arraignment has been very cumbersome.” He, however, assured that the process was ongoing. “We are hoping that very soon, the process would be concluded,” he assured.
Ojogbane consequently pleaded for further date to enable the Federal Government to complete the process of ensuring that the defendants appear in court for arraignment.Justice Tsoho adjourned the court till February 15, 2018, for arraignment.
Yesterday’s sitting would be the third failed attempt by the prosecution to arraign the defendants in court. On April 3, 2017, the government had approached the court with a request for guidance on whether or not to issue an arrest warrant against Adoke. The prosecution counsel stated that Adoke and some of the defendants were residing outside the shores of Nigeria, making the service of writ of summons on them difficult.
Justice Tsoho pointed out that if Adoke had already been arraigned before the court and had attempted to evade trial, it would have been proper to issue a warrant of arrest. “Once a person has been arraigned before a court and is attempting to escape, then it becomes necessary to issue a warrant of arrest. But in this case, Adoke has not been arraigned, the matter is still being investigated,” the court said.
The matter was later adjourned to June 16, but again, the arraignment could not hold due to the absence of Adoke in court. It was then adjourned till yesterday, when the arraignment was again stalled.
The charges are part of an international collaboration to ensure that all those who took part in the $1.1 billion Oil Prospecting License (OPL 245) scandal are brought to justice.
In a bid to get to the root of what transpired in the oil block scam, the government had in December 2016, filed a charge against Adoke, Etete, and others. In March 2017, the government instituted another charge against Adoke and those involved in the OPL 245 Oil block deal.
In the charge filed in March 2017, count one stated that the accused persons conspired, contrary to Section 26 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, to defraud the Federal Government of billions of naira. The offence is punishable under Section 12 of the same Act.
The particulars of offence stated: “ Count one: That you, Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd, ENI SPA, Ralph Wetzels (Whilst being Director of SNEPCO), Casula Roberto (Italian), (whilst being a Director of Agip), Burrafato Sabastino (Italian), while being a Director with Agip, Douzia Louya Etete (Aka Dan Etete), Mohammed Bello Adoke, Aliyu Abubakar, and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd sometime in 2011 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit a felony to wit, official corruption and you thereby committed an offence.”
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