$1.6bn Judgment Debt: Justice Ministry Not Involved, Says Adoke

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The immediate past Attorney General  of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) has denied his involvement in an alleged $1.6 billion judgment debt scam, saying his ministry was not involved as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved decentralisation of judgment debts.

In a statement yesterday, Adoke said his initial reaction to a publication by an online news medium on the allegation was to dismiss it as the handiwork of mischief-makers who were hell bent on pitting him against anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to instigate or precipitate spurious investigations against his person to settle personal scores.

 “I was however advised otherwise particularly as federal government’s current war against corruption has unwittingly created an enabling environment for mischief, harassment, fraud and revenge to thrive through malicious petitions against perceived enemies with the sole aim of disparaging them and bringing them to public odium. While I cannot decipher the motivations of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) that has reportedly petitioned the EFCC “to investigate a court judgment obtained by the 774 local government councils in the country, ordering the federal government to pay them $3.188 billion and the diversion of $1.6billion” and their antecedents, I am however surprised that they could make such weighty allegation without any factual basis. I wish to state categorically that I was not at any time involved in the alleged diversion of the sum of $1.6billion paid pursuant to the judgment of the court or any other sums of money,” he explained.

Adoke recalled that when he assumed office in 2010, one of the reforms measures he initiated was the decentralisation of payment of judgment debts, which was before then domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Justice.

He said the step he took became pertinent in view of allegations of collusion, connivance, bribery and other acts of corruption that had trailed the judgment debt payment system that he had inherited.
“I, therefore presented a memorandum on the issue to the FEC which considered the reasons I had articulated and approved that the payment of judgment debts be decentralised (meaning that henceforth, the various MDAs will be responsible for payment of judgment debts that they were primarily liable from their budgetary allocations),” he added.
Adoke said the objective of the decentralisation was to make the MDAs take active interest in cases that they were involved, ensure robust defence to such actions and instill transparency and accountability in the system.

According to him, by the operation of the policy, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation was only a nominal party to suits initiated against MDAs including suit number FHC/ABJ/129/2013, where the Ministry of Finance was the Primary/Principal Party.
Adoke added that this notwithstanding, when enforcement proceedings commenced, he wrote to the Ministry of Finance to ascertain whether they had appealed the judgment.

 He noted that the ministry’s response to his enquiry was that they did not appeal and had no intention of appealing the judgment.
The former minister said it  was at this stage that he advised that steps be taken to reach an amicable settlement that could guarantee a win-win outcome, adding that this was the advisory role he could play under the prevailing policy.

“It should be appreciated that the Federal Ministry of Justice was not involved in the payment of the alleged judgment sum and could not have been involved since the Ministry of Finance was primarily liable. I could therefore not have been involved in the alleged diversion. It is instructive to note that the publication detailed the names of individuals and corporate entities to which monies were allegedly paid. I am not mentioned as an individual beneficiary and therefore find it mischievous and malicious that my name featured prominently in the aforementioned headline,” Adoke said.

He urged his well wishers and other Nigerians who have expressed concern over the publication to be rest assured that he was not a party to any unwholesome act or diversion of public funds as alleged.
According to him, the EFCC has no reason to investigate him on the strength of this frivolous petition.
Adoke further reiterated that in all his public service, his only motivation was the desire to serve his fatherland and contribute his quota to the development of this great country.