Nigeria: Documents Counter Malami's Claim He Wasn't Notified of Adoke's Arrest

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(file photo).
2 December 2019

On November 11, authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrested Mohammed Bello Adoke, Nigeria's erstwhile attorney-general.

Three weeks after, incumbent Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, has continued to insist that he has not been formally notified of the arrest by relevant authorities.

This is despite Mr Adoke's lawyers writing to him at least two times since November 14, three days after the arrest.

Sources first briefed PREMIUM TIMES about the arrest almost a week after it happened on November 17, saying it stemmed from the ongoing investigations and trials over the $1.3 billion Malabu Oil deal. They said he was arrested by Interpol after he arrived in the UAE for medical evaluation -- following the dismissal of an arrest warrant for him in Nigeria.

It was unclear from which country Mr Adoke departed for the UAE that Monday. He had been on a self-imposed exile from Nigeria since 2015, alleging plots by the Nigerian government to rubbish him using the Mabalu allegations.

Mr Adoke's trial over the Malabu scandal was initially stalled because the agency was unable to serve him the court papers.

In April, Nigeria's anti-graft EFCC secured a provisional warrant for Mr Adoke's arrest from Danladi Zenchi of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The warrant was issued as part of EFCC investigation into the Malabu fraud allegations, which involved Shell, Eni, their officials and some politically-exposed Nigerians.

However, even though he was out of Nigeria, Mr Adoke's lawyers have been fighting the charges against him in court.

Mr Adoke's lawyers filed for the warrant to be vacated arguing that there was no evidence to support allegations of the former attorney-general's involvement in the scam. On October 25, 2019, Mr Zenchi quashed the warrant he earlier issued. The judge then asked the EFCC to serve the corruption charges on Mr Adoke using substituted means.

The reversal of previously outstanding warrant for his arrest may have given Mr Adoke the confidence to proceed about his business abroad as he had done since 2015.

But on arriving the UAE on November 11, he was arrested by the Interpol and handed over to that country's interior police.

Some media reports said the EFCC had continued to work with foreign jurisdictions, including the UAE, towards Mr Adoke's arrest. But the agency has not issued a statement over Mr Adoke's arrest on November 11, and its chief spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, was unavailable for comments Sunday afternoon.

A dead-end?

Three weeks on, neither Interpol nor UAE authorities have offered any explanation for detaining Nigeria's former minister of justice despite the arrest warrant on him having been vacated. Interpol directed all enquiries from PREMIUM TIMES to UAE's interior ministry, whose officials have declined to return e-mails or answer multiple telephone calls to their offices.

Mr Malami, whom many Nigerians were counting on to quickly unravel the situation with his predecessor, has also declined to follow-up with the UAE government.

The AGF had urged President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 to order the discontinuation of the charges against Mr Adoke, ex-petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and others named in the Malabu Oil fraud because there was no sufficient evidence to prosecute them, a stance the EFCC opposed.

But on November 18, a day after the arrest was first reported in the media, Mr Malami's office issued a statement saying the attorney-general has not been informed.

"My office as the Attorney General Federation and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not in receipt of any formal communication regarding the alleged arrest in line with international conventions, processes and procedures relating to such matter," he said. "Until such formal communication is received the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice would not comment speculatively in one way or the other over the matter."

The attorney-general maintained the position when reached by PREMIUM TIMES for an update on the matter on Friday.

The UAE authorities "have not initiated communication to my office and there is nothing I can do unless they do that," Mr Malami told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone on November 29.

The AGF said none of the Nigerian diplomatic missions in the UAE has informed him about the development or offered any advice on the steps being taken.

When asked to comment on Mr Adoke's status as a senior Nigerian lawyer and former attorney-general whose rights may have been violated because a foreign country refuses to honour a Nigerian court order, Mr Malami said: "there can be no sentiment" in his official role as attorney-general.

PREMIUM TIMES later obtained letters which Mr Adoke's lawyers, Mike Ozekhome Chambers, wrote to Mr Malami on November 14 and 21, urging him to attest to the validity of the court order.

The lawyers pleaded with Mr Malami to write to UAE authorities confirming Mr Zenchi's order that quashed the previous warrant for Mr Adoke's arrest.

Mr Malami, however, declined to return requests for his comments on the letters by Mr Ozekhome.

In the interim, Mr Adoke's lawyers have continued the fight for his release. On November 28, a separate letter was written to Interpol demanding his release, but it was unclear whether UAE authorities would be willing to cooperate.

While Mr Adoke's travails continue in the UAE, his corruption trial along with other suspects in the Malabu scandal continues at the federal court in Abuja. The former minister has continued to strongly deny any wrongdoing.

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