Godwin Tsa Abuja
The planned arraignment of the immediate-past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) and his co-defendants on a 42-count charge bordering on the controversial Malabu Oil deal has been adjourned to today, after the exercise was stalled, yesterday.
Although the arraignment was scheduled to take place before the Gwagwalada Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, the inability of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to serve the defendants with the charge sheet stalled the proceedings.
The prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, informed Justice Idris Kutigi, that the EFCC had only served the charges on the fifth to the seventh defendants – Nigeria Agip Exploration, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, but had not served the second defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, because he was on the run and was only arrested yesterday morning.
The prosecution counsel stated that the commission wanted to ensure that Aliyu was arrested and served before others would be served.
He expressed the surprise over the presence of defence lawyers in court.
Among the seven defendants, only the fourth defendant, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited was not represented by a lawyer.
But the firm was represented by one of its officials, who told the court that the oil company had not been served.
Aliyu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), protested the prosecution’s claim that his client was on the run.
Adoke’s lawyers, Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the EFCC had refused to serve the charges of 42 counts on their client, despite that he had been in the agency’s custody since December 19, 2020.
Although counsel representing the defendants, who had yet to be served, told the judge that they were ready to waive their right to being served to enable the arraignment to take place, the judge, Idris Kutigi, insisted that trial could not proceed when the fourth defendant was not represented by a lawyer, and not served with charge sheets.
The prosecuting counsel then undertook to ensure that all the defendants were served promptly.