Alex Enumah in Abuja
A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), has given the current AGF and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), seven days’ ultimatum to retract injuries and defamatory statements made against him (Adoke) at the ongoing hearing of the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) arbitration case in England.
Adoke who issued the ultimatum through his lawyers led by Chief Paul Erokoro (SAN), is also asking Malami to tender a public apology for making statements which he knows to be untrue and defamatory against the person of Adoke.
According to the letter dated July 28, Malami had in his witness statement argued by counsel representing the federal government during a virtual hearing of the P&ID case on July 13 repeatedly described Adoke as “corrupt”.
Erokoro in the letter said the statements of Malami, which in themselves were not true, have however negatively affected Adoke’s image because the court proceedings were on live television in Nigeria and on social media around the world.
Erokoro added that newspapers also gave prominent coverage to the defamatory words attributed to Malami, even when they were not true hence the essence of the formal protest.
Malami was accused of maligning the person of Adoke in several paragraphs of his 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th witness statements filed on the December 5, 2019, 22nd January, 2020, 6th March, 2020, and 8th June, 2020, respectively.
Specifically, he had accused Adoke of having a hand in the failed P&ID agreement, receiving kickback from the deal through former petroleum minister, Chief Dan Etete and also singlehandedly selecting a legal team to represent Nigeria at the arbitration.
But Adoke did not only deny all the allegations, he recalled that even Malami had exonerated him from complicity in the P&ID deal, adding that when a competent court in Nigeria removed his name as a party in some ongoing corruption deal in the country, Malami till date did not appeal the judgment.
“Our client is astounded by your failure to inform the English court that under Nigerian law, any person charged with or accused of a crime MUST be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Rather, you pronounced our client guilty, even when you were fully aware that his trial had not even commenced. The Attorney-General’s oath of office includes an undertaking to protect and defend the Nigerian Constitution.
“The constitutional right to fair trial is severely breached when the Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria urges the court of a foreign jurisdiction to regard and even pronounce a Nigerian guilty of an offence without a trial. It was your unfortunate and wrongful pronouncement of guilt on our client that emboldened the FRN’s counsel in England to tell the whole world that our client is corrupt.
“This has done incalculable harm to our client’s name, reputation and standing in society. Our client will suffer even more harm if the English Court, misled by your evidence, makes an adverse finding against our client. It is for this, among other reasons that the first duty of the Attorney-General and indeed all counsel, is to the Court”, the letter read in part.
In defending the allegation, Adoke reminded Malami that he became Attorney-General of the Federation on the 6th day of April, 2010, whereas the negotiations for the Gas project had been on from 2009, adding that he only became aware of the P&ID matter when the Ministry of Petroleum Resources requested in 2013 that he appoint an arbitrator as well as counsel.
“Our client finds it remarkable that you found no fault in the appointment of the arbitrator but found fault with the appointment of counsel, even though the two appointments followed the same process. For this reason, our client is forced to conclude that your vilification of his name is merely a case of giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it.
“Our client asserts that even though he appointed Mr. Shasore as counsel, Mr. Shasore’s legal fees were paid by the administration of President Buhari, long after our client had left office, a fact well known to you.
“It is also on record that our client was not involved in any of the negotiations with P&ID for settlement, which all took place under your watch. The initial proposal for settlement was delivered to President Jonathan. The President referred the matter to our client for his advice. Our client advised the President to leave the matter to the in-coming administration, since the President’s tenure was ending in eight days.
“You also conceal these facts from the court even though the records have been in your office all along. If our client had been part of any corrupt scheme with P&ID as you claimed in your evidence, surely our client would have jumped at the chance to give P&ID a favourable settlement.
“Please note in this regard that the Final Award was issued in July 2015, months after our client had left office. Your evidence was therefore unfair and uncharitable to our client because you are aware that all the attempts at settlement with P&ID took place under your tenure as Attorney-General, a fact you freely admitted in your witness statements”, he added.
Adoke further queried why Malami would accuse him of corruption when at their request to the United States Government for information on all bank accounts owned by our former President Goodluck Jonathan and himself, it was discovered that he has no foreign account.
While reminding Malami that the AGF’s duty to protect the interest of the federal government does not empower him to trample on the constitutional rights of citizens, he urged the minister within the next seven days on receipt of his letter take necessary steps to correct the misleading and false statements against him.
“Our client demands that you retract the false evidence that you gave to the English Court, regarding him” and apologise for the harm done to his name.
Adoke also demanded that Malami instruct his counsel in England to cease and desist from repeating the allegations of corruption and other defamatory imputations broadcast about our client.
“Our client demands that you instruct your counsel in England to move the English Court to redact the records of that Court and remove the offensive references to our client.
“Our client demands that you propose appropriate monetary compensation for the violation of his constitutional rights and for the damage to his reputation.
“Our client will appreciate it if you meet his demands within seven days of your receipt of this letter,” Erokoro said.