The immediate-past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, said on Wednesday that he was ready to defend himself in respect of the multiple charges relating to the Malabu Oil scam and others instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Adoke said his trial by the EFCC would expose persecution and illegalities going on in the country.
The ex-AGF addressed journalists for the first time since December 19, 2019 when he was arrested by the EFCC on his return to the country after staying in exile for four years.
He spoke with journalists on the premises of the Gwagwalada Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, after his and others’ scheduled arraignment on fraud charges failed due to the EFCC’s failure to serve the charges on him and other defendants ahead of the Wednesday’s proceedings.
Speaking after the court adjourned the arraignment till Thursday, Adoke, noted that the commission did not serve him with the charges despite being in the agency’s custody for five weeks.
He said, “I am not disappointed, I expected it. I was not served even though I have been in their illegal custody for the last five weeks.
“I came back to this country voluntarily to defend myself. As a former Attorney-General, I am very ready to defend myself.
“I am happy that this is an opportunity for Nigerians to know the persecution and illegalities that are going on in this country, and that we must not allow situation when political colouration dictate the liberty of anyone.”
Five sets of charges have been filed against Adoke and others between December 19, 2019 when he was arrested shortly after returning to the country from Dubai and Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Justice Idris Kutigi, on Wednesday adjourned the arraignment of Adoke and six others till Thursday after he realised that the proceedings could not go on due to the failure of the EFCC to serve most of the defendants with the charges.
Contained in the 42 counts filed against the defendants by the EFCC are allegations of giving and receiving gratifications and forgery of documents.
Apart from Adoke, the rest of the defendants are Aliyu Abubakar, who was accused of offering N300m gratification to the ex-AGF; a former company secretary and legal adviser of Malabu Oil and Gals Limited, Rasky Gbinigie.
The rest are the Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.
Among others, the EFCC alleged that in August 2013, Adoke as a public offer serving as the AGF, “accepted from Aliyu Abubakar for yourself 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.”
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.
An official of the company, who was in court, told the judge that it had not been served with the charges.
The prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, confirmed that only three of the companies – Agip, and the two Nigerian subsidiaries of Shell had been served.
Sanga said the commission was unable to serve the second defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, with the charges because he had on the run and was only arrested earlier on Wednesday.
Aliyu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), protested the prosecution’s claim that his client was on the run.
Adoke’s lawyers, Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the EFCC had refused 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 speaking about the non-service of the charges on his client, Rasky Gbinigie’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), said his client who was arrested and detained by the EFCC on Tuesday had yet to be served.
But counsel representing the two Shell companies, Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), confirmed that his clients had been served.
Although, counsel representing the defendants who had yet to be served told the judge that they were ready to waive their right to being served by the EFCC to enable the arraignment to take place on Wednesday, Justice Kutigi insisted that trial could not proceed when the 4th defendant not represented by a lawyer had yet to be served.
Justice Kutigi adjourned the hearing till Thursday.