The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has justified his letter advising President Muhammadu Buhari to order the termination of the charges instituted against the immediate-past AGF, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), and others, in respect of Malabu oil scam.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had filed three sets of charges of fraud and money laundering against Adoke, a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, and others in connection with the $1.1bn Malabu scam.
The charges were filed between December 2016 and March 2017 before the Federal High Court in Abuja and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama.
The alleged scam revolves around the highly lucrative Nigerian oil well, Oil Processing Licence 245, originally offered under controversial circumstances to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. by the then Gen. Sani Abacha military regime in 1998.
The anti-corruption agency had alleged that the Nigerian government was defrauded in the alleged shady transactions in the chain of transfers that later gave away the ownership of the OPL 245 to oil the giants, Shell and Agip.
While responding to an inquiry by our correspondent early Monday, Malami said he advised Buhari to withdraw the charges because he had evaluated the case and realised that the investigations which led to the filing the charges against Adoke and others was weak and could not earn any conviction.
Our correspondent had late on Sunday asked Malami why he chose to write Buhari instead of exercising his constitutional power of discontinuing the criminal trials, if he strongly believed the charges instituted by the EFCC were weak.
Section 174(c) of the Constitution empowers the AGF “to discontinue, at any stage before judgment is delivered, any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person.”
Responding to our correspondent’s inquiry on Monday, Malami said discontinuance of trials was not the major consideration of his letter.
He said his letter was more concerned about how Nigeria could derive the greatest benefits from the controversial Oil Processing Licence 245 covering highly lucrative oil field which had not been explored for years due to court cases.
Malami told The PUNCH on Monday that his letter to Buhari considered the EFCC’s investigation report that informed the charges and also factored in the Federal Government’s policy of attracting foreign investment.
He said the letter was to provide options to the government on how to improve on the revenue generation of the government through negotiating the resumption of production in the oil field.
“The letter was written within the context of the available investigation report on the basis of which the charges were filed which I find inadequate to earn a conviction.
“It also factored the Federal Government’s policy of attracting foreign investment coupled with the fact that an asset that could have enhanced the revenue of the government is left unexploited on account of protracted litigation.
“The idea behind the letter is to present options available to government in relation to the issue inclusive of either improving on the inadequacies of the investigation or taking advantage of available investment attraction policy windows thereby improving on revenue generation of the government through negotiating the resumption of production in the oil field.”
Malami had, in his letter dated September 27, 2017, said the criminal cases filed by the EFCC against Adoke and others lacked sufficient evidence to prove the allegations of fraud and money laundering contained therein.
Malami had earlier expressed similar opinions in a letter dated September 20, 2017, which he sent to the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
In his letter to the President, Malami had said the charges instituted against Adoke and others would fail on, among other grounds, that there was “nothing to show that the parties as constituted were at all times working together and having a ‘meeting of minds.’”
“There is also nothing in the proof of evidence to support the charge of money laundering and it is therefore impossible for the prosecution to prove the elements which include illicit funds, transfer for such through various channels to reintroduce same into the regular financial system as legitimate funds in financial institutions etc.
“Without the express proof of these elements, the counts may not be sustained on the premise of the attached proof of evidence.”
Malami argued that instead of prosecuting the defendants, the government should devise the means of making the OPL 245 lucrative without necessarily revoking it.