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Arraignment of Suraju, HEDA chairman, for ‘forgery’ delayed yet again

Arraignment of Suraju, HEDA chairman, for ‘forgery’ delayed yet again
January 24
15:09 2022

The arraignment of Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA Resource Centre chairman, on charges relating to forgery, has been fixed for February 7 after suffering a delay.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/370/21, Suraju is being charged with cyberstalking for allegedly circulating the fake audio of a phone interview said to have been planted to implicate Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation (AGF), in the OPL 245 saga.

At the court session on Monday, A.O Shuaibu, counsel from the office of the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP), said the day’s business is for the arraignment of the defendant.

However, Muiz Banire, Suraju’s counsel, drew the court’s attention to the fact that they had not been served with the proof of evidence.

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He said his client cannot be arraigned on charges of which nature he does not know.

Banire added that the prosecution is also yet to respond to their preliminary objection and bail application served since October 2021.

“Up until now, we are yet to be served with the proof of evidence,” he said.

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But the prosecution counsel insisted that the proof of evidence had been filed and served on the defendant.

“My lord, the defendant has been duly served. On the issue of bail, when we get to that bridge, we will cross it,” he said.

However, Binta Nyako, the presiding judge, said she also has no record of the proof of evidence.

The judge said she only has a record of the additional proof of evidence.

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“Where is his original proof of evidence?” she asked.

“As long as I don’t have it, you have not filed it. Why are you filing an additional proof of evidence when you don’t have an original proof?”

The prosecution then prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable them properly file and serve their proof of evidence.

Shortly before adjourning the matter, the judge directed the prosecution to respond to the processes filed by the defence team.

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“The moment you are served a process, time begins to run. You need to respond to that process. If you don’t reply, it means you have no reply. So you cannot say that because you have a charge, you are waiting for the charge to be read before you now go back to write your reply,” she said.

The matter has been adjourned till February 7 for the arraignment of the defendant.

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Suraju is being accused of circulating a forged email purportedly sent to one Bayo Osolake of JP Morgan, UK, by Adoke from the account of AA Properties, owned by Abubakar Aliyu who was accused of distributing bribes in the transaction.

In February 2021, Adoke, through his lawyers, had petitioned the IGP, requesting an investigation into the email shared with the media by HEDA Resource Centre.

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He said the email was intended to support the claim that there was corruption in the deal and to create the impression that he and Aliyu, owner of AA Properties, “worked together” to fleece Nigeria.

The former AGF said he was no longer minister as of the date it was sent and had no reason to use another person’s email address.

Adoke also denied the claim that he had a phone conversation with an Italian journalist in 2017 in which he was said to have acknowledged that the OPL 245 deal was a scam.

An Italian court had ruled in March 2021 that there was no corruption in the OPL 245 deal and subsequently discharged and acquitted Shell, Eni and others on trial.

The Italian appeal court also overturned the four-year jail sentence of Emeka Obi, a Nigerian, and Gianluca Di Nardo, an Italian, who had been convicted for their role as middlemen in the deal.

Fabio De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro, the Italian prosecutors in the OPL 245 trial, are now facing investigation by the Italian ministry of justice over allegations of manipulating evidence to secure conviction by unlawful means.

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