Malabu oil deals: Court discharges, acquits Mohammed Adoke, Abubakar, 5 others

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By Kenneth Atavti

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Jabi has discharged and acquitted former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke and six others charged with alleged fraudulent conduct in the handling of the controversial Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 (popularly referred to as the Malabu Oil deal).

Adoke was charged with a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar; Rasky Gbinigie; Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited; Shell Nigeria Extra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited over the otherwise known as Malabu Oil scam.

Justice Abubakar Kutigi, in a ruling on Thursday, upheld the no-case submissions made by all the defendants in the 40-count amended charge, marked: FCT/HC/CR/151/2020.

Justice Kutigi, held that the prosecution failed to lead evidence in proof of the essential elements in relation to the offences charged.

The judge, who noted that the charge was not well drafted and prosecuted, asked the prosecuting counsel to refrain from filing such a charge in future.

Justice Kutigi held that allowing the case to remain in court will do untold injustice to the defendants, who ought not to be tried on the charge in the first place.

He proceeded to discharge and acquit all the defendants.

The Trial Judge had slammed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over its tardy prosecution of defendants involved in alleged $1.1 billion Malabu Oil fraud.

Among those on trial over the alleged fraud, is a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN.

Adoke is being prosecuted over alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa.

He was docked alongside two others; Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and four companies- Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

The defendants, who were initially docked before the court on January 23, 2020, pleaded not guilty to an amended charge that was read to them before Justice Kutigi.

At the resumed proceeding in the matter, EFCC drew the ire of the trial judge, following its failure to produce witnesses for continuation of hearing into the matter.

EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Ofem Uket, told the court that he had only one witness in court to testify against the defendants

Asked if it was the last witness he intended to produce in the matter, Uket replied in the negative.

He told the court that he had another witness that could not make it to the proceeding considering the fact that he is resident in Canada.

The prosecution counsel added that though the, said witness was present in court on the last adjourned date, the case could not be heard as the judge was involved in an election petition tribunal.

Uket said he needed assurance that the trial was going to hold before inviting the witness from Canada so as to save cost.

Infuriated by the submission of the prosecution counsel, trial Justice Kutigi berated the Commission for attempting to blame the delay in prosecution of the case on the court.

“Whether he (witness) is in Canada, I don’t care. Is that how it is done in the EFCC?

“That I should give you assurance; they can’t sit in their office in EFCC and dictate what happens in this court, I run the court not you.

“Is that how it is done in Canada? We can’t run a case for four years. That is scandalous” Justice Kutigi added.