By Peter Ejiofor
Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre, has written to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, over the case file of its chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju for alleged cyberstalking.
HEDA’s letter to Malami, which was also copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, was disclosed in a statement in Lagos on Sunday.
It said any approval of prosecution of Suraju by the minister on the grounds that his alleged statements were untrue would therefore conflict with evidence submitted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) in London and Milan.
The letter from HEDA, signed by its Executive Secretary, Mr Sulaimon Arigbabu, added that this would have considerable implications for both the JPMC case and the current appeal by the FRN in Milan against the judgment to acquit the defendants in the OPL 245 case.
The former Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, one of those accused of fraud in the OPL 245 scam, also referred to as Malabu scandal, had petitioned the police, accusing Suraju and HEDA of circulating fabricated evidence against him to unduly incriminate him in the multi-million dollars scandal.
The subject of Adoke’s petition was forgery of an email in which Nigeria as a sovereign state was shortchanged to the tune of 1.1 billion (one hundred and one billion) dollars and HEDA and its international partners have been involved in the advocacy for recovery of this money and prosecution of principal actors behind the heist.
However, HEDA and Mr Suraju, have denied any wrongdoing in a series of statements issued on the matter, saying that the items he was accused of fabricating featured as exhibits in the Malabu Oil scam trials in Milan, Italy.
HEDA’s open letter to the minister reads: “We understand from press reports that the Inspector-General of Police has submitted a case file to you for review and possible recommendation for the prosecution of Olanrewaju Suraju for cyberstalking.
“According to the Premium Times, the file was forwarded to your office on Sept. 20, 2021, by ACP Ibrahim Musa, Head of the IGP Monitoring Unit, on behalf of the IGP.
“A copy of a report on the case, apparently written by Mr Musa at the request of Mohamed Bello Adoke SAN, has been published in the press. We assume that this was the same report that was forwarded to you.
“Mr Musa’s letter of Sept. 20, 2021 (`the Musa letter’), as reported in the Premium Times, accuses Mr Suraju of making criminally defamatory statements regarding an email said to have been sent by Mr Mohamed Adoke to JP Morgan Chase in order to facilitate the transfer of funds arising from the OPL 245 deal to Malabu Oil and Gas.’’
It adds: “Mr Adoke denies sending the email and has claimed it is a forgery.
“The Musa letter also alleges that Mr Suraju’s reporting of the email was a `calculated attempt’’ to `falsify’ relationship between (Mr Adoke) and Aliyu Abubakar, while their cases are still ongoing in court, thereby misleading the public.’’
The anti-graft organisation said the decision as to whether or not to prosecute Suraju is for the minister, as Nigeria’s chief law officer to decide, taking account of the facts of the case; whether there is an arguable case to answer; the public interest in prosecuting; and the prospect of a successful prosecution.
However, it noted that “any prosecution for criminal defamation will, however, necessarily rest on the basis that the statements made by Suraju were untrue.
“The purpose of this letter is therefore, to call your attention to the fact that the statements allegedly made by Suraju are identical to those that have been made by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its civil cases against JP Morgan Chase in London and its case against Shell, Eni and other defendants in Milan.
“In its Re-Re-Amended Particulars of Claim to the High Court in London in the JPMC case, the federal government described the OPL 245 transaction as `corrupt’ and `a conspiracy to injure (Nigeria) by unlawful means by depriving the Nigeria of monies for the grant of OPL245 to which it was lawfully and exclusively entitled’.
“This is no different in substance or wording from statements that have been made by Suraju.
“The FRN also stated that on June 21, 2011, `Bayo Osolake (as a representative of the Defendant (JPMC) received an email sent by Attorney-General Adoke from the email address `agroupproperties@yahoo,com’, attaching copies of each of the Resolution Agreements’.
“Again, this is precisely the same language and content used by Suraju to report on the June 21, 2011 email.
HEDA said that in the Milan case, where the FRN submitted the email in question as evidence in its final summing up arguments to the Court on February 21, 2021, the FRN stated: “The closeness of Abubakar and Adoke at the time of the OPL 245 affair has, lastly, been definitively confirmed by the email acquired during the hearing of 3.2.2021, with which copies of the three RA signed – by Adoke Bello – were sent from an email address of A Group Properties to JP Morgan,’’ it said.
It noted that Suraju had simply reported this statement of fact by the FRN.
HEDA said the FRN had further stated to the Milan Court: “Basically, the behaviour of the Attorney-General during the negotiations, at the meeting of 15.11.2010 during which the price and corrupt agreement is defined, the indifference regarding the contractual clauses and his sole interest in the price that was due Malabu, his intervention with the President to silence the NNPC objections (which are in fact silenced), the closeness to Etete and Abubakar during the period in question, the relationship of `closeness’ with the oil companies, can only and solely be read together with the abnormal property operation with Abubakar and the abnormal perception of cash.’’
It said that for the umpteenth time, HEDA noted: “Yet again, the statements allegedly made by Suraju regarding the relationship between Adoke and Abubakar were mere reporting the facts as stated by the FRN in open court.
“We would also note that Mr Adoke himself has acknowledged his relationship with Abubakar in his book `Burden of Service’ (relevant pages attached) and that, in its judgment, the Milan court described the firstname.lastname@example.org email as confirmation of the relationship between Minister Adoke and the companies of Alhaj Abubakar Aliyu ” – a relationship which is described by the judges as proof of `a mixture of economic interests that is serious circumstantial evidence of receipt of benefits from Malabu’s payments’.
“Although Adoke has vigorously denied receiving any payments from the OPL 245 deal, we note that the Milan court ruled as a fact that he `is the only one of the three public officials indicated in the indictment as necessary parties to the corrupt agreement to have received a benefit directly deriving from funds from the OPL 245 operation.
“The Milan judges state that Adoke received some 2 million dollars from the deal. The money originated from Aliyu Abubakar and was paid into Adoke’s account through numerous cash payments from Bureaux de Change.
“We assume that you are in possession or have seen the FRN’s Re-Re-Ammended Statement of Claim to the High Court in London and the final pleadings of the FRN in the Milan case. Since the lawyers were acting on your fiat, we also assume that the statements in both documents reflect the FRN’s position.
“For Suraju to be prosecuted for reporting statements made in open court by the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an assault on the fundamental principle of open justice,’’ HEDA said.