Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, has finally been released from the custody of Interpol, following his arrest and detention in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Adoke, who was arrested by Interpol on November 11 in Dubai, when he entered the country for medical reasons, had been in the custody of Interpol for a period of one month and a week.
Interpol had predicated their action on an international bench warrant for Adoke’s arrest issued on April 17, 2019 by Justice Danlami Senchi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Adoke had however insisted his arrest in Dubai was illegal since the purported bench warrant had been vacated by the same court.
Having found no reason to continue to keep him, Interpol and UAE authorities were compelled to release Adoke.
Confirming Adoke’s release, his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said he was already airborne on his way to Nigeria.
According to Ozekhome, the former AGF opted to come back to Nigeria.
“He has been released and he is airborne to Nigeria. He has been released because nothing was found against him, nothing incriminating was found. So the UAE authorities and Interpol were forced to release him.
“He opted to come to Nigeria, he could have gone to any other country of his choice. But he is on his way to Nigeria and he will arrive this afternoon,” Ozekhome said.
Adoke fled the country in 2015 to Netherlands following the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the 2015 presidential election, and had since refused to come back home in spite of several criminal charges filed against him by the Federal Government.
The former Minister, who was indicted for fraud to the tune of $1.2 billion in regards to the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 – the Malabu Oil scandal – was in November arrested by Interpol operatives in Dubai where he had gone to seek medical treatment.
But his lawyer, Ozekhome, claimed that Adoke was unlawfully arrested by Interpol because the warrant of arrest earlier issued against him by Justice Danlami Zenchi of the Federal Capital Territory High Court has been vacated by the same judge on October 25 this year.
“I can confirm to you authoritatively that Adoke has been released from the custody of the Interpol and will arrive Nigeria in any moment.
“He was let off the hook because nothing incriminating was found on him and he has on his own volition opted to come back to Nigeria.
“Adoke is not extradited by the Nigerian government because there is no reason for that. He is coming back to Nigeria to clear his name from the alleged Malabu oil scandal.
“He is innocent of the allegations against him, Adoke has not done anything wrong. He is already airborne and will land in Nigeria this afternoon, today, Thursday.”
Ozekhome had last month at the Abuja High Court during the hearing of a suit he filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on November 6 said that the detention of his client is unjustifiable.
Adoke had in the suit prayed the court to strike out his name from earlier charges filed against the Shell Production Limited and nine others by the EFCC.
The anti-corruption commission had in 2017 filed charges against Adoke and the others, in a case marked FCT/HC/CR/124/17, bordering on fraudulent allocation of the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 and other forms of offences involving the sum of about $1.2B forgery of bank documents, bribery and corruption.
The alleged $1.2 billion scam involved the transfer of the OPL 245 purportedly from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited to Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Co. Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited.
Justice Danladi Senchi, sitting at Jabi, Abuja, had on April 17 issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Adoke and other defendants in the case.
The judge, however, vacated the arrest warrant on October 25 following an application made by Ozekhome before the court to that effect.
Ozekhome had informed the court that the former AGF had filed an application seeking the removal of his name from the charge sheet.
According to him, the application was filed on November 5 but was served on the prosecution by the court bailiff on November 27.
According to Ozekhome: “When Adoke’s warrant of arrest was vacated on October 25, he felt he should go for medical checkup in Dubai. He was arrested there based on the earlier court warrant of arrest.”
The senior advocate informed the court that Adoke protested his arrest by the Interpol, which he said was against Chapter 3 of the Interpol Article since the said warrant had been vacated by the court which initially issued it.
He added that all decent steps to ensure that the former AGF is released by the Interpol had been taken, including writing EFCC, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, the UAE authorities and Interpol, which had not yielded any result.
Ozekhome declared that, “it is the duty of the AGF to ensure that the rights of every Nigerian citizen are protected.”
The former Minister hinged the prayer, among others, on the fact that he had secured a judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, against the Attorney-General of the Federation, representing the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in which he was completely exculpated with respect to the facts and circumstances relating to the Malabu Oil scam.
Ozekhome argued that, having been exonerated in the Malabu Oil scandal by Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the inclusion of Adoke’s name as a defendant in the criminal case was erroneous.
According to the senior advocate, EFCC concealed the April 13, 2018 judgment by Justice Nyako in which the court held that Adoke could not be held liable for any infraction in the whole Malabu Oil saga for carrying out a presidential directive from the FCT High Court.
This, he noted, was “a gross misstatements, misrepresentation, concealment and suppression of material facts” by the EFCC.