Anti-graft agency says it didn’t accuse Adoke of any wrong

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By Our correspondent

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has said that it never accused its prosecutor, Offem Uket, of receiving bribe to compromise the case between the Commission and former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke in the transfer of Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd’s interest in OPL 245 to Shell and Agip in 2011; a trial that lasted about four years at FCT high court presided over by Justice Abubakar Kutigi.

It had been reported last week by an online medium which claimed that the EFCC was dissatisfied with Adoke’s no-case plea, which was granted by the court. The report further stated that the EFCC accused its prosecutor, Offem Uket of sabotage in order to discharge and acquit the former AGF.

In its first official pronouncement on the matter, the EFCC, in a statement issued by its spokesman, Dele Oyewale, said the public should ignore “effusions of mischief makers on the matter” and await the next course of action, adding that the Commission was reviewing the case.

Oyewale wrote: “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has commenced a review of developments around the Malabu OPL 245 fraud case, including the dismissal of the charges against a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke by a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja and the conduct of the prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket.

“Nevertheless, this intention has no nexus whatsoever to the spew of speculations imputing compromise by parties to the charge, currently making the rounds in some sections of the media.

“EFCC is not obliged to embrace such narratives as it neither accused any of the parties of any unsavoury conduct nor made any conclusive statements about any investigation on the matter.

“The public is enjoined to ignore the effusions of mischief makers on the matter and await the next course of actions.”

Delivering his ruling on March 28, 2024, Kutigi chastised the EFCC for filing “frivolous” charges, and upheld the no-case submission filed by Adoke and dismissed the charges of fraud, bribery and conspiracy against the former minister on the grounds that the EFCC failed to adduce credible evidence to prove the allegations contained in the charge.

Although the judge commended the prosecution for conceding that it did not have sufficient evidence to oppose the no-case application by Adoke, he criticised the anti-graft agency for wasting four years prosecuting the case. The judge added that the defendants ought not to have been charged in the first instance.

The judge further noted that a charge must not be filed just for the purpose of filing, adding that a frivolous charge does damage to the judicial system.

Speaking further on the lapses of the anti-graft agency, the trial judge said, “Every trial, more so, a criminal trial is a different ball game which must be undertaken with utmost care and attention to details, particularly, the quality of the evidence and availability of witnesses.

“It cannot be right or fair, that in this case, for example, nearly about 30 counts in the case involving forgery, the documents subject to these counts were not presented in evidence and material evidence led to situate the elements of forgery.

“If as stated by the lead investigator, PW10, that they demanded for about 37 documents from the CAC but only a few were made available, this then begs the question, why a charge will be filed involving those documents the prosecution does not have access to?

“I must therefore make the point that the whole trial process, whatever its inherent imperfection, is entirely evidence driven, evidence which requires quality and probative value.

“This is so whether it is at this stage of situating a prima facie, as in the present situation, or at the point of determining guilt, or otherwise of the defendants”, he queried.

On the basis of that, the judge said, “I hereby dismiss, I hereby discharge the defendants of all the entirety of the charge preferred against them.”

Before filing the charges against Adoke at the FCT High Court, there was intense scrutiny by the US department of justice, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Adoke was also tried by the Court of Milan in Italy, the commercial court of England and Wales.

Later, he was taken to the FCT high court in Nigeria, they all came to one verdict: no evidence of corruption whatsoever.

Meanwhile, a public affairs analyst, Simon Kolawole, has questioned the bribery allegation leveled against Mr. Offem Uket by some sections of the media, which the EFCC has denied.

He asked if the Nigerian prosecutor was actually bribed to compromise the trial, who then bribed the foreign prosecutors and judges who had hitherto discharged and acquitted Adoke of the same charge.

Kolawole asked: “If, indeed, the EFCC prosecutor was bribed, were the Italian prosecutors bribed to lose the case in Milan too? In fact, the prosecutors are now facing criminal charges for allegedly hiding vital evidence that would have exonerated Shell and Eni during trial.

“Were the officials of the US department of justice and SEC bribed as well? It seems the EFCC was working to an answer all along and did not properly plan for how to handle possible defeat”.