Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation (AGF), has for the umpteenth time denied collecting a bribe from the OPL 245/Malabu deal.
In an interview with Premium Times, Adoke said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have seized the property he was alleged to have bought with the bribe if there was any truth to it.
The former minister of justice, who has been on self-exile since 2015, has been speaking on his time in government in a series of interviews published by the Abuja-based newspaper.
In 2011, the federal government brokered a deal between Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, the original allotees of the enormously endowed but controversial OPL 245, and Shell/ENI who wanted to buy the oil block from the Nigerian company.
While Shell and ENI paid a signature bonus of $210 million to the federal government, they paid $1.1 billion to buy 100 percent interest in the oil block from Malabu.
However, the entire $1.3 billion was transferred to the account of the federal government in London, UK, from where Malabu was paid its $1.1 billion.
Subsequently, it was alleged that bribes were paid to government to facilitate the deal, considered by activists as unfavourable to Nigeria.
The EFCC charged Adoke to court in absentia, accusing him of collecting $2 million as bribe from the deal.
Asked pointedly if he did not benefit from the money allegedly shared after the deal went through, Adoke replied: “I did not. And by the special grace of God I have not done anything wrong, and time and events will prove this.”
He said the transaction that was being used by the EFCC against him was a failed mortgage deal between him, Unity Bank and Aliyu Abubakar, the alleged distributor of the bribe.
“When I became a minister, my SSS people said my house is not safe… If I wanted to build a house, how long would it take me to build a house? So I needed to buy. I started looking for a house to buy and I saw a house and they said it belonged to a man I know. I called him and he said he was going to sell it to me at N500million and I agreed because of the location,” Adoke, who was AGF from 2010 to 2015, said.
“I didn’t have that amount of money then. I approached my bankers, Unity Bank. I told them this is the transaction I have and this is what I wanted. They agreed to fund the transaction. I was to pay an equity contribution of N200million. I had a plot of land that was given to me by Bala Mohammed (then FCT minister) in my name. The bank paid directly to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar. They paid it directly to his company, not that the money came to me.
“Somewhere along the line, timelines were not being met to pay back the loan and I couldn’t even sell the land to pay the N200million equity participation and at the same time the loan was going bad and I have to be paying interest. It was a five-year term loan. So, the owner of the property came to me, which was still under construction and said since I cannot pay him the N200 million, CBN wants to buy the house and said he should sell it to them since I don’t have proprietary on the property yet. He asked for the certificate but I said I don’t have the certificate. I directed him to the bank, Unity Bank, who paid him the money and took the certificate.
“I called the MD of the bank and thanked him for the loan offer while asking him to take the cash from Alhaji Aliyu and release the property’s certificates in the custody of the bank. The man paid the bank directly. Whether he paid them in dollars I don’t know… They collected the money and the bank released the certificate to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar. Aliyu Abubakar sold the house to CBN. He had already sold the house.
“The question you should be asking yourself is: They said he laundered money for me, he paid for my mortgage, then where is the proceed of the [crime]? Where is the house? Why is it that the EFCC did not attach the mortgage or go for forfeiture of the house? That is the question you should have asked. That is what we call investigative journalism. That is the money laundering they said I committed.”
He promised to return to Nigeria between July and September 2019 after undergoing a surgery for an undisclosed ailment, denying allegations that he was running away from justice.