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Police to European groups: Lanre Suraju circulates unverified, defamatory information

Police to European groups: Lanre Suraju circulates unverified, defamatory information
October 22
16:08 2021

The police have accused Olanrewaju Suraju, chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, of indulging in circulating “unverified information” that is “defamatory in nature” through social media.

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They have also told his European associates that he jumped bail and “deceived his surety” while being investigated over allegations of forgery made by Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation.

The anti-corruption campaigner was further accused of maligning the police through the media rather than cooperate during investigations into the alleged forgery of an email and a stage-managed telephone interview which Adoke said were designed to implicate him in the OPL 245 trial in Italy.

Shell, Eni and others were eventually discharged and acquitted by the Italian court over charges of corruption.

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The Italian prosecutors are now facing investigation over allegations of manipulating evidence to secure conviction by unlawful means.

In Nigeria, criminal charges have been filed by the federal government against Suraju who is accused of circulating the allegedly forged email and audio on Facebook and Twitter.

Suraju denies all allegations.

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TheCable had reported the findings of the police investigation into Adoke’s petition which indicted Suraju — but the activist and his media allies branded the report as “fake news”.

Re:Common and Corner House, two foreign partners of HEDA Resource Centre, then wrote to the inspector-general of police (IGP) on September 9 seeking the authenticity of TheCable’s report.

‘POLICE REPORT IS AUTHENTIC’

In the reply dated October 14 and signed by Ibrahim Musa, an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and head of the IGP monitoring unit, the police confirmed TheCable’s report as “factual”.

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Musa insisted that the “Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA)” —  of which Suraju claimed to be the chairman in a handwritten statement and with which he sued the police — is not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

He said it was later that Suraju claimed his registered organisation is called “HEDA Resource Centre”.

Suraju refused to cooperate with the investigation, he said, and his first surety withdrew after he allegedly jumped bail.

“That on the 28th of June 2021, a phone call was extended to him on the telephone number he provided on the statement form, inviting him to report on the 7th of July, 2021 in furtherance of the investigation, and Olanrewaju Suraju acknowledged through a text message on the same day. However, on the 30th of June 2021, Olanrewaju Suraju before the scheduled date sent a text message to the IPO stating that the Inspector General of Police has directed the case to be transferred to Force Investigation Bureau, when there was no such directive, and upon this, he dishonoured the invitation while the complainant reported. Again, another text message rescheduling the interview to 8th of July, 2021 was sent to him, but he also failed to report, citing inability to meet the cost of travelling from Lagos to Abuja,” Musa wrote.

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“Upon his inability to attend the interview, one Barr. Oluwaseye Afolabi of Kunle Adegoke & Co. in a letter dated 12th July, 2021 addressed to the Head, IGP Monitoring Unit, requested for new date for the interview on the grounds that Olanrewaju Suraju was ill and undergoing medical treatment, without attaching any medical proof. On the strength of his Counsel’s request, they were rescheduled for 19th of July, 2021 to report, and his Surety one Ajene Isegbe was put on notice to produce him, but the suspect and his Surety all failed to show up for the interview on the rescheduled date;

“That the failure of Olanrewaju and Surety to report despite several invitations necessitated the office to approach the court and obtained a warrant of arrest for the suspect’s Surety. Thereafter, detectives were dispatched to Lagos State on 22nd July, 2021 with a view to tracing and re-arresting Olanrewaju Suraju but on locating his verifiable address (…) investigators were informed by one Mr. Kolawale that Olanrewaju Suraju, who is on Police administrative bail, had travelled abroad and there was no date of his return, without presenting any evidence. Upon this revelation, his Surety was further mandated to produce him, but he failed;

“A letter of invitation dated 26th July, 2021 was addressed to the Director General, National Gallery of Arts, Federal Ministry of Information, requesting for the release of the Surety – Ajene Abraham Isegbe – to interview the Head of the Unit on 2nd of August, 2021, for the offence of screening of an offender. He reported, his statement was recorded under words of caution. He revealed that the suspect deceived the Police and himself, by stating that he was sick and in the hospital, while he was abroad. Thereafter, the Surety made an undertaking dated 3rd August, 2021 to produce him on the 5th of August, 2021 but failed again. He undertook to produce him on 10th August, 2021 and equally failed.

“That Olanrewaju Suraju rather than honour Police invitation at IGP Monitoring Unit and assist the investigation, resorted into writing a counter petition to DIG Force Criminal Investigation Department, and with the same unregistered “Human and Environmental Development Agenda” and not with “HEDA Resource Centre”, filed a Suit No: ID/11599MFHR2021 dated 23rd July, 2021 requesting the court to grant him an Ex-parte-Order restraining the Police invitation arrest. On account of his prayers, he obtained the Ruling of Court and Enrolment Order given by Justice D. T. Olatokun of the High Court of Lagos State on the 6th of August, 2021 restraining the Police for Seven days (7) and same was with the name of “Human and Environmental Development Agenda and not “HEDA Resource Centre”;

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“That on 19th of August, 2021, his Surety – Ajene Isegbe – produced him and his additional statement was recorded under words of caution. The surety – Ajene Isegbe – submitted a hand written letter dated 11th August, 2021, for withdrawal of his surety-ship on the premise that he cannot guarantee the appearance of the suspect at IGP Monitoring Unit, thereafter one Oluseyi Fatuyi of Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning stood surety for him on Police administrative bail.”

The police said that on the 19th of August, 2021 when Suraju Olanrewaju was confronted with letter from Corporate Affairs Commission reference no: RGC/SU/VOL.6/2021/02/75 dated 23rd July, 2021, stating that Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) is not registered as an incorporated trustee, “Olanrewaju Suraju recanted his statement and stated that his organization is registered with the name “HEDA Resource Centre” and that the acronym HEDA means Human and Environmental Resource Agenda”.

‘COMPLETE CONTRAST’

Musa said upon conclusion of investigation, “police investigation report dated 2nd September 2021 was submitted to the Inspector General of Police recommending that the duplicate casefile be forwarded to the office of the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, for further necessary action. It was also recommended that the counter petition written by Olanrewaju Suraju be discarded because it is frivolous and lacks merit. The Inspector General of Police approved the recommendations and
directed for strict compliance”.

On how Adoke got a copy of the report, Musa informed Re:Common and Corner House that “the complainant had in a letter dated 6th August, 2021 to the Inspector General of Police, applied for Certified True Copy of the Investigation Report and exhibits, and approval was conveyed vide Inspector General of Police letter dated 16th August, 2021. Hence a concise Certified True Copy of Police Investigation Report was issued to the applicant for record purpose only”.

Musa said what Suraju told his partners is in “complete contrast” to the factual findings of investigation.

“Therefore, the Nigeria Police Force is not surprised the suspect Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, that indulges in circulating unverified information that is defamatory in nature by using social media will surely not be comfortable with the outcome of such a painstaking investigation and will do everything aimed at discrediting the investigation conducted by the Nigeria Police Force,” he wrote.

“Nevertheless, we believe that the letter has squarely addressed your concerns and will also enable you in making a guided decision, in respect of the conduct of Olanrewaju Suraju during the period of the investigation.”

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