By SaharaReporters, New York
As Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke has frustrated the trial of corrupt people and other criminals and thus sabotaged the efforts of the Federal Government to tackle corruption, the Anti-Corruption Network (ACN) declared today, and is not a fit and proper person to occupy that office or any position of authority or responsibility in a decent society.
Furthermore, Mr. Adoke ought not to have received the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Commander of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria, ACN said in a strong 72-point rebuttal of the statement of defence filed by the AGF against the ACN and Dino Melaye, its Executive Secretary.
At the forthcoming trial, the CAN said it would demonstrate by use of public or official records, statements, published mass media reports and other documents that Mr. Adoke’s suit should be dismissed with substantial costs against him as it is “vexatious, frivolous, and lacking in merit.”
Text of the statement:
IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY
IN THE ABUJA JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT ABUJA
SUIT NO: CV/3227/2013
MOHAMMED BELLO ADOKE, CFR, SAN)………PLAINTIFF
1.REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF )
2.OTUNBA DINO MELAYE)
STATEMENT OF DEFENCE
SAVE AND EXCEPT as hereafter otherwise expressly admitted, the 1st and 2nd Defendants deny each and every allegation of facts contained in the Plaintiff’s as if same were specifically set out and traversed seriatim.
1.The Defendants admit paragraphs 17, 18, and 22 of the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim but deny paragraphs 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13, 14,15,16,19, 20, 21, 23, 24 and 25 and put the Plaintiff to the strictest proof thereof.
2.With respect to paragraph 10 of the Statement of Claim the Defendants aver that the Plaintiff has not shown that the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on him in July 2006 was based on outstanding contributions to legal development in Nigeria or on merit. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Application Form and all other documents submitted by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria which the Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce.
3.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff is not known to have handled any outstanding case to qualify him for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce a copy of the application form submitted by him for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Guidelines for the Award of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the material time to prove that the Plaintiff was not qualified.
4.The Defendants aver that they have never come across the Plaintiff’s cases in the law reports. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to list his cases which have been reported in law reports.
5.Before his appointment as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice the Plaintiff was defending Jolly Nyame, a former Governor of Taraba State. The Plaintiff now gives or is deemed to have given approval to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission to try him, in other words trying someone he defended earlier, a clear case of conflict of interest.
6.The Plaintiff was made a member of the Legal Practitioner Privileges Committee as soon as he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and as such his membership of the Committee is not based on merit but on closeness to the legal establishment.
7.The Defendants state with respect to paragraph 11 that the Plaintiff used his position as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to get himself elected into the International Law Commission as he is not an international law expert. His predecessor, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (SAN) also put himself forward as a candidate from Nigeria for the post. Hence Nigeria has not been well represented in the Commission.
8.With respect to paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim the Defendants aver that the appointment of the Plaintiff as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was not based on his contribution to legal development in Nigeria but on political consideration.
9.The Defendants aver with respect to paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim that the Plaintiff has no demonstrable contribution to national development to merit the award of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). The conferment of national honours in recent times have been mired in controversy as many Nigerians believe that the award has been debased, a fact which has led some reputable Nigerians to reject the national honours conferred on them. The award has ceased to be regarded by a wide cross-section of Nigerians as an indication of positive contributions to society.
10.With respect to paragraph 15 of the Statement of Claim the Plaintiff was made the Chairman of the Nigerian delegation to the Cameroon / Nigeria Mixed Commission set up under the Green Tree Agreement based on the fact that he is the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and not on the basis of expertise or knowledge of international law. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce the instrument of ratification of the Green Tree Agreement by the National Assembly.
11.The Defendants states with respect to paragraph 16 of the Statement of Claim that the common and general belief is that the Plaintiff has not performed the functions of his office creditably.
12.The Defendants aver that based on their conviction that the Plaintiff has abused the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, they requested President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed him to remove him from office in the national interest. At the trial of this suit the defendants will rely on the indictment of the plaintiff by several organizations, newspapers and magazines.
13.The Defendants aver that the President has not yet acted on the request for the removal of the Plaintiff, hence he remains the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
14.The Defendants aver that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have had cause to clash with the Plaintiff over his moves to castrate and frustrate them from investigating and prosecuting corruption and other economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Rules enacted by the Plaintiff which are believed to be designed to weaken and render the anti-graft bodies ineffective and moribund.
15.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff made Nigerians to believe that the Federal Government acted legally in facilitating the disputes involving OPL 245 allocated to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited owned by Chief Dan Etete when he knew or ought to know that:
i.Chief Dan Etete was the Minister of Petroleum Resources on April 29, 1998 when his company, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited was allocated OPL 245 by General Sani Abacha the then military Head of State contrary to section 10 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (Cap 56) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 applicable at the material time.
ii.The oil block was cancelled and forfeited by the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo on July 2, 2011 which allocated same to Shell for 30 years leading to the institution of the suits filed by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
iii.The settlement sum of $1.1 billion was paid into depository Escrow Account No:41454193 domiciled in JP Morgan Chase Co., London belonging to the Government of the Federation in line with section 162 of the Constitution.
iv.The said of sum $1.1 billion was withdrawn from the Account of the Government of the Federation without any appropriation by the National Assembly as required by section 59 of the Constitution.
v.The purported amicable resolution of the disputes over the ownership of OPL 245 which culminated in the surrender of the oil block to Shell and ENI contravened the Federal Government Regulation of not selling more than 40% shares in any oil block to foreign oil firms.
16.Owing to the allegations of fraud, round tripping, corruption and abuse of office in the fraudulent settlement of the disputes involving the ownership of OPL 245 the House of Representatives passed a resolution to investigate the deal. When the Committee was set up the Plaintiff appeared before it to give testimony he justified the illegal and fraudulent transaction. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Punch newspaper edition of December 8, 2012.
17.Although the Committee has not submitted its report for the consideration of the House the Plaintiff lied when he wrote to Global Witness, an anti-corruption agency based in the United Kingdom, that the House of Representatives had approved the Malabu Oil deal. At the trial of this suit the defendants will rely on the Plaintiff’s letter dated 20th May, 2013 addressed to Global witness.
18.The Defendants aver that sometime in April 2010 President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Plaintiff to prosecute eight suspects indicted in the Halliburton bribery scandal. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on The Nigerian Tribune of Wednesday, 09, June, 2010.
19.After the institution of the case there were speculations in the media that the Plaintiff would frustrate the prosecution. The Plaintiff was compelled to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government would not bungle the case which was then pending at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Vanguard newspaper of October 1, 2010.
20.The Defendants aver that in utter violation of section 174 of the Constitution the Plaintiff compromised the case, and refused to produce witnesses in court until the case was eventually struck out for want of diligent prosecution. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Leadership newspaper of March 27, 2012.
21.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff disregarded the instruction of President Jonathan to prosecute the Halliburton suspects who exposed Nigeria to shame and ridicule before Nigerians and the international community and entered into a plea bargain arrangement which made Halliburton to pay the paltry sum of $26.5 million.
22.The Defendants aver that although the said sum of $26.5 million was collected as a result of a plea bargain superintended by the Plaintiff, the money was not paid into the Federation Account as required by Section 162 of the Constitution. As the fund was not accounted for President Jonathan was compelled to order the Plaintiff to fish out the said sum of $26.5 plea bargain money. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the report of the Vanguard newspaper of October 27, 2012.
23.The Defendants aver that Julius Berger, a giant construction firm was charged at the Federal High Court with bribery for acting as conduit for distributing bribes to top government officials indicted in the Halliburton scandal but the Plaintiff inexplicably withdrew the case to the detriment of Nigeria after the accused had pleaded guilty to the serious charge. The Plaintiff is given notice to produce all the plea bargaining agreements or settlement agreements which he signed with accused persons from 2010 – 2013 and with all other persons standing trial since his appointment to date.
24.In total violation of his powers under Section 174 of the Constitution the Plaintiff discontinued the criminal case and asked Julius Berger to pay a fine of $29.5 million. The Defendants aver that the various exercise of the powers under section 174 of the Constitution have not been in the public interest. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Thisday newspaper of 26 September, 2010.
25.The Defendants aver that when Nigerians cried foul over the plea bargain arrangements which allowed Halliburton and Julius Berger to pay meagre fines to the Federal Government when they had paid over $1.5 billion fines to the United States Government for bribing Nigerian officials. The Plaintiff made Nigerians to believe that the Federal Government would file a suit in the United States to claim $2 billion from Halliburton, when he knows that not be true. The suit has not been filed up till now!
26.The Defendants aver that a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Honourable Justice Dahiru Musdaper publicly challenged the legal validity of plea bargain in our criminal justice system when he described it as “a concept of dubious origin”. The Plaintiff ignored the weighty opinion of the then Chief Justice of Nigeria on the matter and has continued to use it to make a mockery of the criminal justice system.
27.The Defendants aver that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed a charge against Mr. Dick Cheney, a former US Vice President at the Federal High Court in Abuja over his role in the Halliburton scandal but the case was withdrawn by the Plaintiff even though the accused did not show up in court to take his plea. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the online report of the Telegraph newspaper of 16 December, 2010.
28.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff filed nolle prosequi to terminate the charge of stealing the sum of N3 billion pending against FidelisAnosike and Noel Anosike at the Federal High Court sometime in November 2011 but the trial judge, the Honourable Justice Pat Ajoku refused to grant the request on the ground that it was not in the public interest and could not be justified by section 174 of the Constitution. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Vanguard newspaper of December 1, 2010.
29.The Defendants aver that although the power of an Attorney-General to file nolle prosequi has never been refused in any common law country the Plaintiff turned round to state that he was ready to prosecute the accused persons. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Vanguard newspaper of January 26, 2011.
30.The Defendants aver that in the case of F.R.N. v. International Bank Ltd. pending at the Federal High Court the Plaintiff informed President Jonathan that there was abundant evidence to prosecute the accused and that there was no basis to discontinue the case. Shortly, thereafter the Plaintiff filed a nolle prosequi and terminated the case. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the paid advertorial published in the Vanguard newspaper of May 21, 2013 by the complainant.
31.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff did not take any step to ensure that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission collect the sum of N7 Billion the Vaswani Brothers owe Nigeria in unpaid customs duties on the ground that they had won a court case. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce the so called judgment which exonerated the Vaswani brothers from paying the customs duties of N7 billion.
32.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff withdrew the charge filed against Siemens AG and Siemens Nigeria Limited for their involvement in bribing Nigerian officials to the tune of $17.5 million. The charge was instituted by the Plaintiff’s predecessor on the orders of the Late President UmaruYar’adua following the embarrassment to which Nigeria was exposed before the international community. But the Plaintiff relied on Section 174 of the Constitution when he terminated the serious case and asked the accused companies to pay N7 billion. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Nigerian Tribune of 23 November, 2010.
33.The Defendants aver that the case of Mrs. Cecilia Ibru charged with money laundering of N250 billion was terminated by the Plaintiff who entered into an agreement with her to forfeit assets worth N191.4 billion. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on a copy of the Settlement Agreement which the Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce.
34.The Defendants aver that the order of the Federal High Court directing the Plaintiff to account for the assets recovered from Mrs. Cecilia Ibru has been flagrantly disobeyed by the Plaintiff. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on a certified true copy of the Court order.
35.The Defendants aver that the money laundering charge of N10 billion filed against Mr. ErastusAkingbola by the Plaintiff was struck out by the Federal High Court for want of diligent prosecution. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on certified true copy of the ruling of the Federal High Court.
36.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff, through a Director, informed the House of Representatives Committee that he was confused over the two conflicting reports submitted by the Police and the State Security Service on the assassination of Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, the Personal Assistant to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
37.The Defendants further aver that following public condemnation of the Plaintiff’s position he hurriedly dissociated himself from the Director and stated that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is not involved in the investigation and prosecution of state offences such as murder. The Governor of Edo State openly berated the Plaintiff, the first time such a criticism would be leveled against a Serving Attorney General of the Federation by a serving Governor.
38.But contrary to the misleading position of the Plaintiff his office issued the Legal Advice which freed Senator Taslim Folarin of murder in Oyo State in 2010. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Legal Advice written by the Plaintiff’s office on Senator TeslimFolarin’s case. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the letter of the Plaintiff dated 11th January, 2010 addressed to the Inspector-General of Police and the Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce the Legal Advice he gave in this case.
39.The Defendants aver that whereas the Plaintiff informed Nigerians that the police had illegally killed over 7,000 Nigerians including detained suspects in 4 years he has failed to put the machinery in motion for the prosecution of the murderers. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Punch newspaper of July 8, 2012 and Vanguard of May 17, 2013.
40.The Defendants aver that sometime in August 2012 the Federal Government directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take necessary action to establish the Electoral Offences Tribunal but the Plaintiff has refused to carry out the directive. The Defendants plead and will rely at the trial of this action on the White Paper on Electoral Offences issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce the Federal Government White Paper.
41.The Defendants aver that the Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice was also directed together with the NSA and the Inspector-General of Police to bring the perpetrators of violence in Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi and Borno States to book but the directive has been ignored by the Plaintiff.
42.The Defendants aver that the Ahmed Lemu Presidential Panel recommended that the “perpetrators of the violence that trailed the release of the April 2011 Presidential Election results, including those responsible for the death of the NYSC members should be apprehended and prosecuted”. In accepting the recommendation the Federal Government stated that the Plaintiff and the Inspector-General of Police were “already prosecuting, apprehended offenders”. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to give a report of those already prosecuted over the civil disturbances. Also, at the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the White Paper on the Report of the Federal Government of Nigeria investigation Panel on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances.
43.The Defendants aver that sometime in 2010 some non-governmental organizations petitioned the Plaintiff to recover and prosecute a former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida for the missing sum of $12.4 billion from the Federation Account from 1988 – 1992 in line with the recommendation of the Pius Okigbo Panel.
44.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff claimed that the report of the Pius Okigbo Panel was missing and demanded for a copy from the Petitioners. Although a copy of the report was submitted to the Plaintiff he turned round to say that it was not authenticated even when the members of the panel (apart from the Chairman) are alive to authenticate the report.
45.When the Petitioners eventually sued the Plaintiff and the Central Bank of Nigeria over the missing sum of $12.4 billion the Plaintiff challenged the locus standing of the Petitioners in a bid to cover up the illegal diversion of the huge fund. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the letters exchanged between the NGO and the Plaintiff over the missing $12.4 billion.
46.The Defendants aver that despite a prison decongestion fund managed by the Plaintiff the country has not less than 40,000 prison inmates who are awaiting trial. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce an account of the Prison Decongestion Fund from 2010 – 2013.
47.The Defendants aver that unlike former Attorneys-General and Ministers of Justice the Plaintiff does not appear in court as enjoined by the Supreme Court.
48.Totally frustrated and dissatisfied with the gross abuse of the powers of nolle prosequi in frustrating corruption cases by the Plaintiff the Campaign Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) called for his removal as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
49.The Defendants aver that CACOL has also sent a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the investigation of the Plaintiff for corruption and abuse of office. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on CACOL’s petition to ICPC and EFCC on the Plaintiff.
50.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff involved the Nigeria Police Force to discredit the allegations leveled against him by the Network Against Corruption but never made himself available for the investigation by the ICPC and the EFCC.
51.The Defendants aver that despite the indictment of top officials of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency of corruption, economic sabotage, prison evasion etc the Plaintiff has failed to supervise the agency in line with section 9 of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the Report of the Obayan Committee which the Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce.
52.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff has wittingly or unwittingly aided and abetted corruption in Nigeria by causing many cases to be withdrawn from criminal courts. They include the cases of the accused persons in Siemens bribery scandal, Julius Berger bribery scandal, International Bank (Citibank) fraud, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission fraud, Halliburton $180 million bribery scandal etc.
53.The Defendants aver that it is generally believed that the Plaintiff prevented the investigation and prosecution of N6 billion fraud in the National Judicial Institute, N7 billion customs and duties evasion by the Vaswani Brothers. At the trial of this suit the Defendants will rely on the reports of The News of 17, January 2000; TELL of June 23, 2003 and NEXT of May 12, 2009. Despite the several admonitions of the Federal Capital Territory High Court the Plaintiff allowed the case of the suspect involved in the Halliburton scandal to be struck out for want of diligent prosecution.
55.The Plaintiff discontinued the case of Mr. Suleiman Bello, a former Minister of State for health being prosecuted by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. He only re-filed the case due to public criticisms of the filing of nolle prosequi in a clear case of corruption.
56.The Defendants aver that the Plaintiff reacted to the publications complained of by issuing a rebuttal and a petition to the police to investigate the Defendants’ allegations.
57.The Plaintiff has not lost any position or membership of any local or international organization based on the publications complained of.
58.As the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice the Plaintiff is a public officer whose actions are subject to public scrutiny and criticisms.
60. The Defendants aver that before the publications complained of there have been criticisms of the role of the Plaintiff by several organizations and newspapers locally and internationally.
61. Further to the previous averments and or in alternative to them, the Defendants aver that the said publications were published on an occasion of qualified privilege.
At all material times to this action, it was publicly debated that the Plaintiff has not been performing the duties or functions of his office as expected.
The office occupied by the Plaintiff is a sensitive one and a creature of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
The Plaintiff has enormous powers under the Constitution that without public criticism the powers can be abused or exercised arbitrarily in a democracy.
62. The Defendants aver that they are a well-known public spirited and advocacy group duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission with the sole object of fighting and exposing corruption in Nigeria.
63. The 2nd Defendant was a member of the House of Representatives. All the publications complained of by the Plaintiff were made by and for the 1st Defendant.
64. Furthermore, the Defendants have unrelentingly criticized public functionaries, institutions and persons occupying public offices such as the Minister of Finance, Minister of Labour, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, former Governor of Kogi State, Members of the State House of Assembly over the impeachment of the speaker of the State House of Assembly and even demanded for their removal. The Defendants plead and shall rely on newspaper reports of these public spirited actions of the Defendants.
65. The Defendants aver that it was indeed the petition written by them to the National Judicial Council and given wide publicity that led to the investigation and ultimate suspension of Justice Talba of this Honourable Court. At the trial the Defendants shall rely on the invitations letters to them from the National Judicial Council.
66. The 2nd Defendant testified and cross-examined Honourable Justice Talba at the Panel set up by the National Judicial Council.
67. The Defendants aver that it was as a result of their petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole is currently standing trial. The plaintiff hereby pleads the petition and will rely on it at the trial of this action.
68. The Defendants aver that in the premises, the defendants and members of the public had a common and corresponding interest in the subject matter and the publication of the said words.
69. The Defendants aver in the alternative, that they were under a legal and/or social and/or moral duty to publish the said words to members of the public who had a likely duty and/or interest to receive them.
70. The Defendants further aver in the alternative, in so far as the said publication consist of statements of fact that they are true in substance and in fact and, in so far as they consist of expressions of opinion, they are fair comment made without malice on the said facts which are matters of public interest.
71. The Defendants shall at the trial of this suit rely on documents, letters, correspondence and all other materials relevant to this case at the trial. The Plaintiff is hereby given notice to produce all documents that are either in his custody or that he reasonably knows that he ought to produce at the trial of this action.
72.At the trial of this suit the Defendants will prove before this Honourable Court:
That the actions and inactions of Plaintiff in office has wittingly or unwittingly frustrated the trial of corrupt people and other criminals and thus sabotaged the efforts of the Federal Government to tackle corruption and other economic and financial crimes.
That the Plaintiff ought not to have received the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Commander of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That the Plaintiff has not shown that he is a fit and proper person to occupy the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation andMinister of Justice or hold any position of authority or responsibility in a decent society.
73. WHEREOF the Defendants urge this honourable court to dismiss the Plaintiff’s suit with substantial costs as it is vexatious, frivolous, and lacking in merit.
Dated this 8th day of July, 2013
Anthony Itedjere Esq.
Bamidele Aturu & Co
Defendant’s Counsel and Legal Representative
53, Mambolo Street, Wuse 2, Abuja
FOR SERVICE ON