Alleged Malabu Oil scam: Court discharges ex-AGF Adoke, others

Justice Abubakar Kutigi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) discharged former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, and six others on Thursday.

They were charged with legacies of committing infractions relating to the controversial Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, otherwise known as the Malabu Oil scam.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dragged Adoke and other defendants before the court on an amended 40-count charge bordering on disobeying the direction of the law, offering and receiving gratification, conspiracy, and forgery, among others.

Adoke, who served as AGF and Minister of Justice under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was prosecuted by the EFCC in the suit, marked FCT/HC/CR/151/2020.

Others are Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Extra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

Ruling on the no-case submission filed by the defendants, Justice Kutigi held that any trial process is evidence-driven, but in this instance, the prosecution failed to produce certain documents or call some witnesses to prove its case.

He further held that the prosecution has failed to prove the essential elements of the offences the defendants were charged with before the court.

According to him, though the defendants were constitutionally presumed to be innocent, establishing a prima facie case against them by the prosecution had to produce sufficient evidence to warrant the court calling on them to enter their defence.

Kutigi held that in the current case, the prosecution failed to establish any prima facie case against the defendants.

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He cited the situation whereby about 3 counts involved forgery, yet the prosecution failed to tender relevant documents as exhibits.

The judge further held that a charge must not be filed for the purpose of doing so, submitting that a frivolous charge does damage to the judicial system.

He commended the prosecution counsel for accepting in his final written address that no case has been made by the prosecution against the defendants.

Kutigi, however, lamented that it took the prosecution four years before realising it.

”The defendants ought not to have been charged in the first instance.

“This stemmed from the fact that the prosecution failed to produce before the court the minimum evidence to enable the court to order the defendants to enter their defense,” he said.

He held that to allow the case to continue, considering the totality of evidence brought before the court by the prosecution, is likened to inflicting undue hardship and injustice on the defendants.

He, therefore, discharged all the defendants of the charge preferred against them, which they have pleaded not guilty to.

He held further that the consequence of such discharge is an acquittal and a dismissal of the charge against them on merit.

“On the final analysis, my firm decision is that the evidence adduced by the prosecution on record is not sufficient to justify the continuation of this trial.

“In other words, the prosecution has failed to tender the required minimum evidence to establish the essential elements of all the counts of the offences that they (the defendants) have been charged with, respectively.

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“For this reason, I hereby preclude them from entering upon their defense, and accordingly, I hereby discharge the defendants of the entirety of the charge preferred against them,” Justice Kutigi ruled.

Reacting to the court’s ruling while speaking with journalists, Adoke expressed gratitude to God that it was all over and he could now get his life back.

While saying that he has forgiven all those behind his travails, the senior advocate said he would continue to support the current government and the government in power as a patriot.

Adoke said, “I am grateful to God and excited that all is over. I am excited that I can get my foot back and move on with my practice. I have forgiven all those who are behind my travails; I bear no grudges.

“As a patriot, I will continue to wish my country (Nigeria) well and I will do everything to support the government of the day and any government that is in power. We need to get it right for this country.

“I have no regret for all I did while in office and I will not regret going forward. And I am grateful that some Nigerians appreciate the fact that, while in office, I gave my best.

“I do hope that the admonition of the court will be seriously adhered to. I am gratified by the fact that the current chairman of EFCC is a lawyer.

”I do hope he will set aside emotions and sentiments and allow the rule of law to prevail in all his dealings and ensure that the letters and spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which I have the singular honour and privilege of anchoring while in office, have a place of play,” he said (NAN)

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