FORMER attorney-general of the federation Mohammed Bello Adoke is on his way to Nigeria to face possible corruption charges after he was released from Interpol custody in Dubai today and caught a flight to Abuja.
At 11am this morning, Mr Adoke left Dubai on an Emirates Airlines flight and is due to arrive in Abuja at 3.40 pm local time. His departure capped a five-week ordeal during which Mr Adoke was held detention after being arrested by Interpol on November 11 after arriving in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a medical check-up and summarily.
His arrest followed an Interpol red alert which the Nigerian government had issued against him as part of the ongoing litigation over the controversial Malabu Oil deal. However, the UAE authorities freed him after Nigeria failed to provide any legal basis and other requisite bilateral support to justify his continued detention.
Apparently, during the five weeks that Mr Adoke was held, the Nigerian government failed to file necessary legal documents that would either allow the UAE to extradite him to Nigeria or keep him in their custody. This failure was a major letdown for UAE authorities because Nigeria had promised Interpol of robust action on Mr Adoke’s extradition if arrested.
One Nigerian official said: “Nigeria had committed that it would seek his extradition in conformity with international law applicable in bilateral and multilateral treaties. However, because his warrant had been quashed, Nigeria was unable to make a legitimate request for his extradition.
“Our government simply played politics with the matter rather than behave as a responsible member of the international community. They, the UAE, expected Nigeria to act but Nigeria failed to act and they were embarrassed.”
Mr Adoke, Nigeria’s attorney-general from April 2010 to May 2015, left Nigeria after the Goodluck Jonathan government departed office and went for post-graduate studies at a university in The Netherlands. He however did not return home after his studies, alleging a conspiracy by the current administration to persecute him.
When Mr Adoke was the attorney-general. $1.1bn was paid by Shell and Agip-Eni to purchase Nigeria’s OPL 245, a lucrative oil field off the country’s southern coast. Dan Etete, a former petroleum minister during the Sani Abacha regime, who was convicted for money laundering in France in 2007, received a large chunk of the payment.
However, the EFCC alleged that some individuals and officials of the Goodluck Jonathan government received kickbacks. Mr Adoke and others named in the scandal all strongly denied receiving bribes from anyone or committing any wrongdoing.
In 2017, Mr Adoke’s successor, Abubakar Malami, told President Muhammadu Buhari he could not find evidence of wrongdoing against Mr Adoke, advising the president to authorise the dropping of all pending charges against him. A Nigerian court also ruled that Mr Adoke could not be punished or prosecuted for official actions he took while in office based on presidential directives.
Authorities in Nigeria, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States have conducted several investigations into the controversial transaction. While Shell and Agip continue to deny any wrongdoing, both oil giants are currently standing trial in Italy over the matter. However, the EFCC dismissed Mr Malami’s position and continued efforts to bring Mr Adoke back to Nigeria to face charges.
In April 2019, the anti-graft agency secured a court warrant for Mr Adoke’s arrest. Based on the warrant, the Nigerian government in August 2019 secured an Interpol red notice asking Mr Adoke to be taken into custody if sighted in any jurisdiction.
However, in October, the warrant was nullified by the same judge that issued it, giving Mr Adoke renewed confidence to continue to sojourn in foreign lands. Unknown to Mr Adoke, the Nigerian government did not withdraw the red notice issued against him after the warrant was quashed.
Once he stepped into the UAE on November 11, Mr Adoke was arrested by Interpol and handed over to the country’s authorities who then illegally held him for five weeks. It is not clear if he will still face prosecution when he arrives in Nigeria later today.