Ex-AGF denies any wrongdoing
Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) thursday arrested a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), shortly after his arrival in Nigeria from Dubai, the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).
Although his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said in a statement thursday that his client came on his own volition to Nigeria, THISDAY learnt from sources that he was deported.
Until yesterday when he left Dubai, Adoke had been in the custody of the Interpol in the UAE since his arrest on November 11 when he arrived in the country for his medicals.
The former minister arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 3.45 p.m. yesterday.
THISDAY gathered that he was picked up at the foot of the aircraft by security agents who refused anyone access to him.
However, EFCC, last night, said Adoke was with the commission.
It said the former AGF who fled the country in 2015, had pending criminal charge brought against him by the commission for alleged abuse of office and money laundering in respect of the granting of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI.
But an earlier text message by his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had said Adoke “was picked up at the foot of the aircraft by Interpol, refusing anyone access to him. He is believed to be on his way to the Interpol office at Area 10, Garki, Abuja.”
Adoke was arrested by Interpol on arrival in Dubai on November 11 when he went for his medicals.
His arrest followed a red alert issued by the federal government as part of the ongoing probe of the Malabu oil scam deal.
Interpol was executing a warrant of arrest issued against him even though it had been quashed.
Although the Federal Capital Territory High Court issued the warrant on April 17, 2019, based an application by the EFCC, the court vacated the order on October 25, 2019.
While the warrant was sent to Interpol by Nigeria, the vacating order was not transmitted to the global body.
The Interpol had requested Adoke’s lawyers to get the Nigerian authorities to attest to the vacating order but the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), declined to endorse the documents, effectively leaving his predecessor in limbo.
THISDAY gathered that frantic efforts made by the EFCC to get Adoke extradited to Nigeria failed because the request did not meet the legal threshold.
To sidestep the vacated warrant of arrest, the EFCC also looked at the option of activating the judicial agreements signed in October 2018 between Nigeria and UAE.
When asked yesterday whether or not Interpol had released Adoke, Malami declined comment.
He said he could not comment on the issue, particularly when he had not been briefed.
He noted that there are several pending cases against Adoke and that it would be unfair for him to be commenting on whether the ex-AGF has been released or was on his way back to the country and what the government plans for him.
However, Ozekhome said in a statement yesterday that the former AGF was released in Dubai and allowed to return home when the Interpol found that there was nothing against him.
Ozekhome said his client was wrongly detained but was let off upon his undertaking to return to Nigeria to have the issues against him resolved.
The statement reads in part: “We are solicitors to Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice (“our client”). We issue this statement on his clear instructions and mandate.
“On the morning of Tuesday, 11th of November, 2019, our client arrived in Dubai, United Arab Emirate (UAE), for a scheduled medical check-up.
“While he was undergoing immigration checks, he was informed that Interpol had a warrant to arrest him. He was shocked to his bones and marrow.
“This is because although a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had issued a warrant of arrest against our client on the 17th of April, 2019, following an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the same court had duly vacated the said arrest warrant order on the 25th of October, 2019, following our challenge of the ex-parte order, and after robust court argument between EFCC (government) counsel and my humble self. “There was therefore no existing arrest warrant on which the Interpol’s arrest was made. This was well reported by the media.
“Our client duly showed Interpol officials copies of the certified court order by Hon. Justice Danlami Z. Senchi. He also showed them the 17th of April, 2018, judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered by the Hon. Justice Binta Nyako, to the effect that our client could not be held liable for obeying lawful presidential directives on the OPL 245 transaction.
“The Interpol officials, however, said only the warrant of arrest was communicated to them by the federal government, and not any of these overriding court processes.
“The vacation and setting aside of the warrant of arrest order made by Justice D. Z. Senchi was curiously not communicated to the Interpol or the UAE authorities.
“But they insisted that they could only deal with the Nigerian government, which must first communicate to them, the said order setting aside the warrant of arrest.
“Our client told them that he was ready to return to Nigeria on his own accord after his medicals; yet, they still kept him in illegal custody for over one month, after running into a legal logjam. It was very clear to them that the Government of Nigeria did not have any legal basis or grounds to extradite Adoke back to Nigeria.
“Adoke, based on our legal advice, has therefore decided to break this unnecessary logjam and simulated stalemate that are already causing Nigeria international embarrassment by buying his own ticket to return to Nigeria voluntarily and peaceably, instead of going to another country of his choice.
“It must be pointed out that Adoke had been out of Nigeria voluntarily since May, 2015, upon the expiration of his tenure as honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. In his undertaking before the Dubai authorities, Adoke signed as follows: ‘I would go to Nigeria authorities to solve my problem, and without any stress or pressure from Dubai Police or anyone.’
“He was not then under any investigation, nor charged before any court of law by the EFCC or any other anti-graft agency howsoever.
“It was only on 21st December, 2016, nearly one-and-a-half years after he went to the Netherlands to pursue his masters (LL.M) degree programmee in Public International Law, with specialisation in International Criminal Law, at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, that the EFCC charged him before the FCT High Court on his alleged role in the OPL 245 transaction.
“Our client verily believes he has done no wrong in merely carrying out his statutory duties.”
Adoke denied any wrongdoing over his perceived role in the OPL 245 transaction.