P&ID: Adoke Writes Malami, Demands Apology For ‘Defamation’
Former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has accused his successor, Abubakar Malami, of giving false evidence against him in the P&ID case.
In his witness statement filed at High Court of Justice of England and Wales, Malami had described Adoke as corrupt, saying he was “heavily implicated in the OPL 245 case” and suggesting that he colluded with the lawyer to make the country lose the P&ID arbitration.
The Nigerian government is trying to get a $9.6 billion arbitration award upturned by proving corruption and conspiracy on the part of P&ID and past Nigerian government officials.
Adoke, in a letter written by his lawyer, Paul Erokoro, and dated July 28, 2020, said the same Malami had written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to absolve him of any wrongdoing in the OPL 245 transaction.
The former minister also said that Malami contracted himself in the witness statement because in one breath, he said Adoke refused to collect gratification from Supo Shasore, the Nigerian lawyer, and in another breath described Adoke as “corrupt”.
“In your letter of 20th September, 2017, addressed to the Acting Chairman of EFCC, you had explicitly advised that a review of the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement did not disclose a case against Mr. Adoke. In effect, you had, as Attorney-General, exonerated Mr. Adoke of any wrongdoing in relation to the OPL 245 settlement agreements, contrary to your evidence in the English Court,” Erekoro wrote.
He also said Malami had, in the witness statement, admitted that “Adoke refused a gift of money from the lawyer that he had appointed to conduct the arbitration. Yet, instead of lauding him, you accused him of being corrupt”.
In another instance, he said at the same time as Malami was characterising Adoke “as a corrupt villain, you were also urging his truthfulness on the English Court. In paragraph 11 of your Fifth Witness Statement, you relied on the truth of Mr. Adoke’s statement to the EFCC to impugn the credibility of Ms. Grace Taiga. How can Mr. Adoke be honourable and dishonourable at the same time?”
The lawyer also raised an eyebrow over Malami’s request that the US government should furnish him information on bank accounts “operated” by Adoke in the country.
He said Malami concealed information from the English court when he discovered that Adoke did not have any foreign account.
“Our client asserts boldly that throughout his stay in government, he had no foreign account. He only opened a student account when he became a student at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 2016. Your office is aware that the funds in that account are less than €100. You therefore owed it as a duty to also tell the English court that the US authorities found no accounts belonging to our client. Rather, you concealed those facts from the court,” Erekoro wrote.
He gave Malami seven days to retract the “false evidence” that he gave to the English Court and demanded an apology “for the harm you have done to his name”.
Adoke is also demanding that Malami should instruct the Nigeria’s counsel in England to “cease and desist” from repeating the allegations of corruption and other “defamatory imputations” broadcast about him.
He also wants Nigeria’s counsel redact the records of that court and remove the “offensive references” to him.
“Our client demands that you propose appropriate monetary compensation for the violation of his constitutional rights and for the damage to his reputation,” Erekoro wrote.
“Our client will appreciate it if you meet his demands within seven days of your receipt of this letter.”
THE LETTER IN FULL:
28th July, 2020
Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN,
Hon Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,
Ministry of Justice Headquarters,
FALSE EVIDENCE ABOUT MR. MOHAMMED BELLO ADOKE, SAN, IN THE P&ID CASE BEING HEARD IN ENGLAND
We act for Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, hereinafter referred to as our client or as Mr. Adoke.
We have our client’s instructions to write to you and firmly protest the numerous, untrue and defamatory statements that you made of and concerning our client in the Witness Statements that you filed at the High Court of Justice of England and Wales in Claims No. CL 2018-000182 and 2019-000752 (the proceedings between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID)). Our client had earlier protested to you in person and now wishes to formalize his protest and demand redress.
On the 13th day of July, 2020, counsel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while presenting the government’s case during a virtual hearing at the High Court in England, repeatedly described our client as “corrupt” and cited your written evidence as his source. The court proceedings were on live television in Nigeria and on social media around the world. Newspapers also gave prominent coverage to the defamatory words attributed to you. Our client has now obtained copies of your witness statements and found to his shock that you actually swore to the offending words in several paragraphs of your 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th witness statements filed on the 5th December, 2019, 22nd January, 2020, 6th March, 2020, and 8th June, 2020, respectively. The following are some of the untrue statements that you made about our client:
(a) In paragraph 11.4 of your Fourth Witness Statement:
“…there is good reason to believe that Ministers at the highest level were involved in a corrupt scheme to steal money from Nigeria by entering into the contract which is the subject of these proceedings and failing properly to defend the subsequent arbitral proceedings”.
(b) In paragraph 23 of your Fourth Witness statement:
“Until the arrival of President Buhari in 2015, a continuing feature of corruption in Nigeria was the involvement of Government officials at the very highest level. The OPL 245 case before the English High Court provides a good example of this:
23.1 The Attorney General of Nigeria made representations to Mr Justice David Steel in the English Commercial Court that the Nigerian Government approved the release from an English freezing injunction of a balance of US1 billion in a depository account held with JP Morgan.
23.2 Following that release, those sums were paid to Malabu, a company controlled by former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Daniel Etete, and furthermore, in a substantial part found their way to, and personally benefited, the Attorney General at the time who had made the representations to the English Court and President Goodluck Jonathan. The most senior people in the Nigerian Government were therefore involved in the fraud, and willing to mislead the English Court, to effect it”.
(c) In paragraph 24.4 of your Fourth Witness Statement:
“The OPL 245 case involved large-scale corruption and fraud at the highest levels of Nigerian government. In addition to the English proceedings mentioned above, the EFCC has brought charges against the former Nigerian officials and the major oil companies involved in the OPL 245 deal. This includes Former Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke who has been charged by the EFCC with corruption and money laundering for receiving funds as payment for the negotiations he allegedly brokered between Shell, Eni and Malabu for OPL 245 … In 2017, Italian prosecutors in Milan also brought charges against executives from Shell and Eni on international corruption charges, and their prosecution is ongoing”.
(d) In paragraph 19.3 of your Sixth witness statement:
“The Arbitration was thinly defended by the MPR, with a view to ensuring an award in P&ID’s favour:
19.3.1 The Arbitration was conducted on the direct instructions of the Attorney General at the time, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, who is heavily implicated in the OPL 245 case (referred to at paragraph 23 of my Fifth Witness Statement), one of the highest level corruption cases in Nigerian history.
19.3.2 Mr Adoke hand-picked the defense team for the Arbitration, and then proceeded to run the Arbitration without any apparent oversight or involvement from individuals within the MPR”.
(e) In paragraph 105.1 of your Sixth Witness Statement:
“When the Arbitration was commenced in 2012, FRN’s legal team was selected under the instructions of the Attorney General at that time, Mr. Adoke, who is heavily implicated in the OPL 245 case, one of the largest scale corruption cases in Nigerian history. He hand-picked FRN’s defense team for the Arbitration, ignoring the suggestions of the Legal Director to the MPR. Thereafter, the day to day conduct of the case was handled by the MPR”.
(f) In paragraph 105.4 of your Sixth Witness Statement:
“Twenty Marina, on the instructions of Mr Adoke, defended the Arbitration so poorly that P&ID BVI were able to obtain the Awards in respect of jurisdiction and liability without any significant resistance. In particular:
105.4.6 Twenty Marina consistently failed to obtain instructions from Mr Adoke in sufficient time to make submissions at case management hearings, which led to a number of adverse case management decisions being made against MPR”.
(g) In paragraph 112 of your Sixth Witness Statement:
“Mr Adoke, who is implicated in large-scale corruption, selected FRN’s external counsel and arbitrator against recommendations”.
(h) In paragraph 114.2 of your Sixth Witness Statement:
“In December 2010, Mr Adoke communicated to Mr Armanna the corrupt payments required to re-allocate the OPL 245 license to Eni and Shell, namely a payment of US$1,092,040,000 to Mr Etete together with a “signature bonus” of US$207,960,000”.
(i) In paragraph 114.4 of your Sixth Witness Statement:
“Mr Etete retained US$250 million for his personal benefit, and used the balance of funds transferred from the escrow account to remunerate Mr Adoke as well as a number of other individuals within the Nigerian Administration that had facilitated the deal”.
(j) In paragraph 115.6.3 of your Sixth Witness Statement;
“In the context of the known fraudulent activity surrounding the GSPA and the Arbitration, and in particular P&ID’s Nigeria attempts to buy influence within the MPR’s legal team, FRN is treating the activities of Mr Adoke and Mr Shasore as highly suspicious. When considered in the context of the thinly defended arbitration described below, FRN considers that this pattern is consistent with the fraudulent procurement of the Final Award by P&ID BVI”.
Our client protests the above assertions in your said witness statements and asserts that the quoted parts of your evidence are, to your personal knowledge, untrue,for the following reasons:
- In paragraph 21 of your Fourth Witness Statement, you acknowledged that
“… the President is vested with all the executive powers of the Federation under section 5(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN as amended and he may choose to exercise these executive powers either directly, through the Vice President or through Ministers of the Government of the Federation or other officers of the public service of the Federation”.
- In your letter of 20th September, 2017, addressed to the Acting Chairman of EFCC, you had explicitly advised that a review of the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement did not disclose a case against Mr. Adoke. In effect, you had, as Attorney-General, exonerated Mr. Adoke of any wrongdoing in relation to the OPL 245 settlement agreements, contrary to your evidence in the English Court.
- In its judgment in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/446/2017 (Mohammed Bello Adoke V. Attorney-General of the Federation), the Federal High Court of Nigeria agreed with your legal advice and declared that Mr. Adoke could not be personally responsible or liable for the actions that he took as Attorney–General of the Federation in relation to the OPL 245 settlement agreements as he was merely executing the instructions of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That judgment was delivered during your tenure as Attorney-General and there was no appeal.
- You are aware that the President at the material time, Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan, whose orders Mr. Adoke carried out, has not been charged with any offence, despite extensive investigations by your administration.
- You are aware that the Prosecutor in the Italian criminal proceedings that you referred to in your evidence had been severely criticized for attempting to conceal the fact that the N300 million that Mr. Adoke is alleged to have received from Malabu Oil was in fact a loan that he had taken from Unity Bank PLC, to buy a house. When he could not raise the balance of the purchase price, the vendor sold the house to the Central Bank of Nigeria and Mr. Adoke had to pay back the loan. Unity Bank Plc and the Central Bank have confirmed these facts and furnished your office with documentary evidence of the loan and purchase transactions.
- At the same time as you were characterizing our client as a corrupt villain, you were also urging his truthfulness on the English Court. In paragraph 11 of your Fifth Witness Statement, you relied on the truth of Mr. Adoke’s statement to the EFCC to impugn the credibility of Ms. Grace Taiga. How can Mr. Adoke be honourable and dishonourable at the same time?
- In paragraph 26 of your fifth Witness Statement, you admitted that “…I have not seen any direct evidence implicating Mr. Adoke in the P & ID fraud …”.You added that “investigations are ongoing”. As investigations were ongoing, there was no legal or moral basis for you to label our client as corrupt.
- You admitted in paragraph 11.5.3 of your Sixth Witness Statement that Mr. Adoke refused a gift of money from the lawyer that he had appointed to conduct the arbitration. Yet, instead of lauding him, you accused him of being corrupt.
- In paragraph 31 of your Fifth Witness Statement and in several other parts of your evidence, you criticized the sitting Attorney-General for exercising his statutory and constitutional powers to appoint a lawyer to represent the government. According to your evidence, the Attorney-General must accept the recommendation of his staff, in this case, “the legal adviser to the Ministry of Petroleum”. Meanwhile in paragraph 19.3.3 of your Sixth Witness Statement, you referred to evidence that the same Mr. Dikko had collected a bribe from P&ID associated companies. In the light of your accusation against Mr. Dikko, Mr. Adoke ought to be commended for his good judgment and prescience when he refused Mr. Dikko’s recommendation.
- While accusing Mr. Adoke of corruption for having single-handedly appointed Mr. Shasore as Counsel, you admitted in paragraph 163 of your Sixth Witness Statement that you also single-handedly appointed Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, to replace Mr. Shasore. Our client notes that you have not accused yourself of corruption in that regard.
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.
Seised as you are of all the facts and Investigation Reports, you are well aware that our client 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. It is on record that our client 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 8 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.
Recently,your government requested the United States Government for information on all bank accounts owned by our client and President Goodluck Jonathan,in that country. Our client asserts boldly that throughout his stay in government, he had no foreign account. He only opened a student account when he became a student at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 2016. Your office is aware that the funds in that account are less than €100. You therefore owed it as a duty to also tell the English court that the US authorities found no accounts belonging to our client. Rather, you concealed those facts from the court.
Our client wishes to remind you that the Attorney-General of the Federation’s duty to protect the interest of the Federal Government does not empower him to trample on the constitutional rights of citizens.
Our Client’s Demands
Our client demands that you retract the false evidence that you gave to the English Court,regarding him.
Our client demands an apology for the harm you have done to his name.
Our client demands that you instruct your 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.
Our sincere regards, as always.
For: PAUL EROKORO & CO.
PAUL EROKORO, SAN
Cc: Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN