Why I take over high profile criminal cases -Adoke

Source: pointblanknews.com

Sequel to criticisms that has trailed his alleged penchant for dumping high profile criminal charges against very privileged persons and Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, has said that he took charge of some of the cases handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) because they had prosecutorial defects.

The case against the Anosike brothers (Fidelis and Noel) received a lot of flak from observers. This was so because the presiding judge, Patricia Ajoku, rejected Adoke's request to drop all charges against the Anosikes.

The Anosikes were dragged before Ajoku for conspiracy and stealing of over N3 Billion worth of properties belonging to Daily Times of Nigeria. Justice Ajoku held that while it is true that the Attorney General has power to withdraw a criminal charge against any person under Section 174 (1&2) of the 1999 constitution, that power under sub section 3, must be exercised in public interest and to prevent abuse of legal powers. Apparently Ajoku was of the view that Adoke's application was not in the 'public interest'.

Adoke listed the prosecutions of Minister for State for Health, Mr. Suleiman Bello, the Vaswani Brothers, Kenny Martins and officials of the Police Equipment Foundation (PEF), the Chairman and commissioners of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission,( NERC), former Governor Ahmed Muazu and the Halliburton scandals as some of the cases handled by the EFCC and the ICPC with prosecutorial deficiencies which required his intervention.

Within the last eight months of his tenure, Adoke has withdrawn about 25 high profile cases eliciting criticisms from the human rights community.

Notably among these cases which were either dropped and accused absolved of wrong doings are the Halliburton bribe scandal, the National Electricity Regulatory Commissioners scandal, the trial of Kenny Martins, handled by Festus Keyamo, on Police Equipment Fund cash, the Siemens scandal and others.

In a document exclusively obtained by Pointlanknews.com, the Attorney General stated that series of anomalies in cases handled by the EFCC and the ICPC are reasons why the Ministry of justice and the office of the Attorney General decided to take over most of the high profile criminal cases.

But the Minister for Justice said his ministry waded in to save the country from imminent embarrassments as a result of the anomalies found in the way and manner the cases were handled by the anti-graft agencies.

He listed cases with anomalies such as: the prosecution of the Minister for State for Health, Mr. Suleimon Bello, The Vaswani Brothers, The Kenny Martins Police Equipment Foundation, the prosecution of the officials of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC and the prosecution of former Governor of Bauchi State, Mr. Ahmed Muazu.

Adoke stated that he was particularly prompted by a petition written by Chief Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney General and Minister for Justice alleging flagrant abuse of due process by the EFCC in the case involving the Vaswani Brothers and other employees of the Stallion Group.

According to him, “On examination of the petition which was also sent to Mr. President, I discovered that the Federal High Court, Lagos, had on 4th of December, given judgment to the plaintiff (Stallion Group) among others:

· A declaration that the letters all dates 8th April 2009 withdrawing Expatriate quota of the 1sth-14th plaintiffs (Sunil Vaswani, Harseh Vaswani, Mehesh Vaswani and other employees of the Stallion group) without any reasonable reason, and without allowing them make representations and without resource to the dispute resolution mechanism provided by law is contrary to law, null, void and of no effect.

· An order restraining the defendants either by themselves, their agents whatsoever from preventing the 1sth-14th plaintiffs and all expatriates on their expatriate quota including but not limited to their rights to enter and remain in Nigeria in accordance with due process of law

Adoke noted that “in confronting these facts coupled with the fact that the order of the court was still subsisting, I reasoned that flagrant disobedience to Court Orders and judgments by the Government agencies, as it appeared to be the case in this suit, should not be encouraged as it would send negative signals to investors, the populace and the international community of our commitment to the enthronement of the rule of law, largely regarded as the cardinal policy of this administration.”

The Attorney General further disclosed that while the Vaswani Brothers have successfully maintained a civil action against the EFCC for malicious prosecution for which they were awarded N10 Million, “it is also with the view that all relevant agencies, departments and authorities should effect subsisting judgment of the court.”

On Kenny Martins and other officials of the Police Equipment Foundation, Adoke disclosed that beside the fact that the fiat obtained by Festus Keyamo to prosecute the accused was a “fiat at large” and therefore irregular, the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo indicated willingness to discontinue the case for lack of evidence.

According to him “in response to the request of the IGP to discontinue prosecution, I called for a settlement meeting of all the parties in my office on 24th August 2010. The meeting was attended by the then Hon. Minister of Police Affairs, Hon. Adamu Maina Waziri, IGP O.O Onovo, CP Legal prosecution, Mr. Bala Hassan on behalf of the Nigeria police Force, NPF, while the Police Equipment Foundation, PEF, was represented by its National Coordinator, Mr. Kenny Martins, Deputy Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Dumuje, Executive Director, PEF, Dr. Yaro Bello and Director PEF, Alhaji Muhtari Inuwa.”

Adoke who disclosed that the decision to discontinue the case based on the agreement of the parties was communicated to President Goodluck Jonathan on August 25, 2010, insisting that “I wish to state categorically that my intervention in this case was to prevent the abuse of or any perceived abuse of prosecutorial powers conferred on the Attorney General by section 174 of the 1999 Constitution by the donee of the power (Mr. Festus Keyamo), especially in the light of the court ruling that the fiat was irregular.”

On the prosecution of the officials of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC by the EFCC, the Justice minister said that while the NERC officials had dragged the Federal Government to court to seek redress, the case filed by the EFCC against the accused was not making any head way because of trial delays and “want of credible evidence further exacerbated the problem thus delaying the implementation of the Power Sector Roadmap.”

The Attorney General stated that while the new NERC board could not be reconstituted because of the pending court cases and the refusal of the Federal Government to reinstate the sacked officials, negotiations started between the NERC officials and the Government at the end of which parties agreed to withdraw criminal prosecution by the Government and withdrawal of the civil case including any Appeals by the officials of NERC.

He said the parties also agreed to withdraw the suspension letters to the NERC commissioners dated February 18, 2009, offering the commissioners to resign forthwith as stipulated in section 37 of the ESPR Act and payment of their entitlements such as salaries and compensation.

Akoke who denied stopping the prosecution of the NERC officials for personal gains stated that the outcome of the negotiation was communicated to President Jonathan on August 27, 2010 and was subsequently approved.

On Muazu of Bauchi state on the use of security votes while he served, the Attorney General noted that because of the series of sectarian crises, “I therefore urged that due care should be taken in the investigation so as to strike a delicate balance between national security and the fight against corruption.”

He added that while the Bauchi State Government had already instituted a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the former Governor, the EFCC was prosecuting Muazu based on the same charges alleged by the Bauchi state Government.

According to him, “to avoid a situation where the pleas of double jeopardy will be sustained by the court as the EFCC's charges was also based on the same facts as the Bauchi case. I therefore advised that the proceedings in Bauchi should be allowed to run its course.”

Adoke stressed that “I didn't stop the EFCC from investigating Ahmed Muazu. My robust consideration of the case was to avoid a situation where the plea of double jeopardy will be successfully upheld to the embarrassment of the Government. I was also of the view that since the Bauchi state Government, the state where the allegations took place, was already seized of the matter and had instituted criminal proceedings, it was better to allow such proceedings run its course in order to avoid abuse of process.”

On the prosecution of Suleiman Bello Minister of State for Health, for soliciting and receiving N11.2 Million from the Governor of Adamawa state while serving in Adamawa State as Electoral Commissioner in 2007, the Attorney General stated that the case file prepared by the ICPC revealed that while is being carried out by one Bolaji Ayorinde, a private legal practitioner, a fiat has not been issued to him by the office of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice to prosecute the accused.

He stated that while the police had concluded its investigation on the matter since 2007 and the accused not charged until 2011, “the one count charge preferred against Suleiman Bello before the Federal High Court was badly drafted as it sought to prosecute the accused under a non-existing law called the Money Laundry (Prohibition) Act 2004.”

According to him, “in view of this glaring anomalies, I exercised the powers vested in my office by the virtue of section 174(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended by directing the Director of public Prosecution of the Federation to take over and continue the prosecution,” stressing that “…I exercised this constitutional power to take over and continue the prosecution and did not order withdrawal of the case as erroneously reported in the media.”

He said since the takeover of the case in February, steps have been taken to amend the charges to avoid duplicity and ambiguity as required by law while the prosecutorial strategy that has been developed is to attend the court on March 21, 2011 to apply for an adjournment to serve the amended charge on the accused before his plea can be taken by the court.