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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

EFCC questions prosecutor for failing to declare evidence of irregularities against Adoke and others

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has issued a query to its prosecutor who declared a lack of evidence to secure the conviction of the main accused facing trial in the Malabu case.

Offem Uket had admitted the prosecution’s lack of evidence in a document submitted to the court last December. He turned the case around after calling 10 prosecution witnesses in a trial that had lasted nearly four years.

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But the EFCC, in a statement shared with PREMIUM TIMES, said Uket made the important concession on his own without the approval of the commission.

“The truth of the matter is that the prosecution lawyer, Offem Uket, who claimed that the EFCC lacked sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute six of the seven accused at trial in the case, was in a mischief of his own and has since been questioned by the commission,” the statement reads in part.

The statement was in response to PREMIUM TIMES’ report on the January 12 hearing of the case at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja.

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He alleged that this newspaper slanted his lawyer’s request for a postponement of proceedings in the case to portray “EFCC as a desperate government agency seeking evidence in the trial of all accused involved in the OPL 245 oil block awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas.” Limited in 1998.”

The statement said his lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, a senior Nigerian lawyer, who appeared for the prosecution in the proceedings, only “requested adjournment so that he could sufficiently address the court, having been instructed to take over the case due to some events in the process”. matter which the EFCC found puzzling.”

The trial revolves around allegations of bribery and fraud to the Nigerian government in a $1.1 billion transaction related to the lucrative OPL 245 oil block. The oil block was first awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in controversial circumstances in 1998. , triggering complicated, decades-long property battles in which prosecutors say the Nigerian government was defrauded.

Among the main accused in the case is former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, accused of having been influenced by bribes to facilitate the $1.1 billion deal for the transfer of the Malabu oil block to two oil giants. : Eni and Shell. in 2011.

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Other main defendants are the Nigerian subsidiaries of the oil giants: Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Extra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

They are accused along with Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.

The prosecution closed its case after calling its 10th witness in October, prompting the defendants to file their separate no-case filings, asking the court to end the trial without the case moving to the trial stage. defending. Their reason was that the EFCC, with its 10 prosecution witnesses, failed to present credible evidence linking them to the crimes alleged in the 40 charges filed in the case.

In response to Adoke’s plea not to file a case, Uket admitted in a December brief that no incriminating evidence was presented against the accused except Gbinigie, who faces 35 of the 40 charges.

The court set Jan. 12 for a hearing on the non-case filing.

‘Rescue mission’

But in a bid to rescue the case, the EFCC sent one of its lead lawyers, Sylvanus Tahir, to court on January 12 to urge the judge to defer adoption of arguments on the no-case submission and grant a “ brief adjournment” of the trial. the case.

Tahir, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), agreed that the session was for the adoption of the parties’ written arguments on the no-case submission made by the accused, but pleaded with the judge to postpone the hearing to allow than the government to review the case.

Other defense attorneys opposed the request for a continuance, insisting that it would be unfair to grant the prosecution’s request after the parties had exchanged submissions about the defendants’ no-case submission.

The judge, Idris Kutigi, agreed with the defendants and refused to grant the requested postponement. He directed the parties to proceed to address him regarding the submission of no case. Following the arguments, the judge set February 29 to hand down his sentence, which would decide whether to conclude the case or order the accused or part of them to open their defense.

‘No surrender’

But in response to PREMIUM TIMES reporting on the proceedings, the EFCC said, in a statement sent to this newspaper on January 17, that it “has not ‘given up’ in any way in relation to the Malabu case.”

It said: “The CEO never ordered Uket to throw in the towel on this matter. He took office a couple of months ago and had not been informed about what Uket went to court with. As chief executive, it is simply absurd that he should be portrayed poorly for an issue that he had not addressed. The Commission is awaiting the Honorable Member’s ruling on this matter. The public has the right to be adequately informed about the position of the EFCC and its leadership on this issue. There is no type of commitment anywhere and there will not be any at any time.”

READ ALSO: Malabu: Court refuses to stay trial for EFCC to seek new evidence

The commission said the crux of the matter was that his lawyer threw in the towel after calling 10 witnesses in a case that had lasted almost four years. He added that it was the “mystery” unfolding in the case that PREMIUM TIMES should have delved into.

Read EFCC’s full rebuttal below:

Issue: Malabu: Court refuses to stay trial for EFCC to seek new evidence

By Dele Oyewale

The Premium Times article of January 14, 2024 on the application for adjournment by EFCC lawyer Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, in the Malabu case before Justice Idris Kutigi of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja High Court, is shocking. The story, which can best be described as jaundiced and devoid of the finesse of objective reporting, was inclined to portray the EFCC as a desperate government agency seeking evidence in the trial of all defendants implicated in the OPL oil block. 245 awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in 1998.

The journalist, seeking ways and means to denigrate the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, insinuated that he had ordered the Commission’s lawyer to declare the government’s interest in the case to secure an adjournment. A lawyer may request an adjournment of any matter if there are justifiable grounds for doing so. In this particular matter, Tahir only requested the adjournment so that he could sufficiently address the court, having been instructed to take over the case due to some developments in the matter that the EFCC found puzzling. Furthermore, Premium Times had previously reported that “EFCC gives up, says there is no evidence of irregularities against Adoke and others”, without delving into the reasons for the evolution of the case.

The truth of the matter is that the prosecution lawyer, Offem Uket, who claimed that the EFCC lacked sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute six of the seven accused indicted in the case, was having fun and has since been questioned by the prosecution. Commission. How on earth would a lawyer who had already presented ten witnesses before the court in a matter that had gone on for more than four years, suddenly request termination of the matter in what can be described as a judicial abortion? This is the crux of the matter and a situation that should normally cause Premium Times to delve into the “mystery” unfolding in the case.

It is necessary to note that the EFCC has in no way “given up” in relation to the Malabu case. The CEO never ordered Uket to throw in the towel on the matter. He took office a couple of months ago and had not been informed about what Uket went to court with. As chief executive, it is simply absurd that he should be portrayed poorly for an issue that he had not addressed. The Commission is awaiting the Honorable Member’s ruling on this matter. The public has the right to be adequately informed about the position of the EFCC and its leadership on this issue. There is no commitment anywhere and there won’t be any at any time.

For now, Premium Times should sheath its sword and allow the judicial process to take its full course.

Dele Oyewale, is the Director of Media and Publicity at EFCC.

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