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HEDA’s UK partners rally support for Suraju over Adoke’s forgery petition

Ahead of his appearance before the police investigating allegations of forged email and phone conversation, Olanrewaju Suraju, chairman of HEDA, has received the backing of his partners, the Corner House and Global Witness.

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The Europe-based organisations organisations, including Re:Common, collaborated in alleging corruption in the OPL 245 transaction between Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Shell and Eni in 2011.

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However, an Italian court has discharged and acquitted Shell, Eni and other defendants of corruption charges in the $1.1 billion OPL 245 deal.

Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation who was not on trial in the Italian case, has petitioned the inspector-general of the police in Nigeria alleging that the e-mail purportedly sent by him and presented as evidence was forged.

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A “Mohammed Adoke” was said to communicated with JP Morgan, the bankers, in June 2011 over the OPL 245 transaction via the address of a company owned by Aliyu Abubakar, who was also on trial in Italy.

The e-mail was intended to support the claim that there was corruption because Adoke and Abubakar “worked together” on the deal.

Adoke has debunked the e-mail, saying he was no longer minister as of the date it was sent and had no reason to use another person’s e-mail address.

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He also said he always signs off his name with his rank SAN — as a senior advocate — unlike the “Mohammed Adoke” that allegedly sent the e-mail.

He said the document was meant to falsify a relationship between him and Abubakar.

The former minister also alleged that a phone conversation with an Italian journalist in 2017 was state-managed and an Adoke impostor was recorded as saying he knew the OPL 245 deal was a scam.

Adoke said he never granted any interview to the journalist and that the Nigerian phone said to have been used was not his as he was even on self-exile and had stopped using a Nigerian line since June 2015.

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CORNER HOUSE DEMANDS APOLOGY

The Corner House, an anti-corruption group in the UK, on April 25 threatened a legal action against Adoke over allegation over the petition.

Corner House said Adoke’s petition poses a damage to its international reputation.

In a letter to Kanu G. Agabi & Associates, the law firm that submitted the complaint on behalf of Adoke, the UK group demanded a retraction of the petition which it described as “entirely untrue and highly defamatory”.

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“The statements made in the Complaint about us are entirely untrue and highly defamatory. Corner House has been accused by your client of criminal acts, namely forgery and falsification of evidence – accusations that are highly damaging to the reputation of Corner House as an internationally respected anti-corruption group,” the letter reads.

It said the email tendered as evidence was made available by JP Morgan in the court filings.

The anti-corruption group said it expects Adoke “to issue a full retraction of the defamatory statements made against Corner House at the earliest possible date”.

“We reserve our right to bring proceedings in the UK or any other jurisdiction where damage has been caused,” they said.

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‘WE STAND WITH HEDA AND OLANREWAJU SURAJU’

In its own press statement dated April 27, UK-based Global Witness said Adoke’s allegations are false.

“This is a story of how false allegations about forgery contained in a complaint to the Nigeria police have been used to target a leading Nigerian anti-corruption champion, HEDA Resource Centre and its Chair, in what would appear to be a blatant attempt to silence him and his organisation. The complaint was made by the former Attorney General of Nigeria, Mohammed Bello Adoke,” it said.

“Instead of investigating the facts, where evidence in the public domain would demonstrate the allegations in the complaint to be false, this has become a story of ongoing police harassment and intimidation. Despite the Herculean efforts of many gifted and committed Nigerians, sadly, it now seems necessary to question just how fragile Nigeria’s anti-corruption achievements might be.”

Global Witness detailed how the controversial e-mail and tape were obtained, maintaining that they were not forged.

Adoke’s lawyers refused to comment when contacted by TheCable.

“We have filed a petition and the police are investigating. Let them do their job. We are not going to be involved in any media war,” one of the lawyers told TheCable.

Suraju was previously quizzed by the police two weeks ago and was asked to return on May 3 for further questioning.

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