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Adoke pleads not guilty as EFCC arraigns him over Malabu deal

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The Economic and Financial crimes Commission(EFCC) has arraigned Mohammed Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation (AGF), on 42 counts of alleged fraud in the $1.1 billion Malabu oil deal.

Alongside Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie, Malabu oil and Gas Limited, Agip, a subsidiary of Eni, Shell Nigeria Ultra deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Adoke was arraigned before a federal capital territory (FCT) high court in Gwagwalada.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Bala Sanga, counsel to the EFCC, had urged the court to remand them at the Nigerian Correctional Service(NCS). He said he only received the defendants’ bail application late Wednesday and that he needed five working days to file his response.

However, counsels to all the defendants prayed the court not to remand their clients in prison.

Mike Ozekhome, Adoke’s counsel, urged the court to take the frail health of his client into consideration.

After reaching a compromise, both the prosecution and the defendants conceded that the case be adjourned till Monday, January 27, for argument on the bail application.

Abubakar Kutigi, the judge, adjourned the case till January 27 for argument on the bail application.

Adoke has always denied all the allegations, accusing the EFCC of manufacturing evidence to implicate him in the bribery allegations over the Malabu/OPL 245 transaction.

He had thrice been charged to court by the EFCC when he was on self-exile but was arrested by Interpol in Dubai, UAE, despite a court order vacating an international arrest warrant.

He returned to Nigeria voluntarily on December 19 and the EFCC secured an order to detain him for 14 days.

On January 2, the court granted the agency further leave to detain him for another 14 days.

The second order expired on January 16 and, unable to keep holding him without another court order, the agency decided to charge him to court the fourth time on similar allegations already before another court.

In his memoirs, “Burden of Service: The Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Former Attorney-General”, Adoke vehemently denied taking any bribe — “not even a cup of tea or a slice of cake” — in the $1.3 billion OPL 245 deal involving Malabu Oil and Gas and two oil giants, Shell and ENI, which has become a subject of criminal prosecutions in Italy, the home of ENI.

In June 2019, Ednan Tofik ogly Agaev, a former Russian ambassador, told an Italian court that he was pressured, under interrogation by the FBI, to mention Adoke’s name as one of the recipients of the $400 million bribes allegedly paid to government officials in the deal. Agaev later refused to adopt his statement to FBI in court, saying that he did not mean for it to be used against him.

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