A former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), has written senate to wash his hands off the controversial payment of $209 million into an escrow account in respect of the Signature Bonus for Malabu Oil Block(OPL 245).
Adoke (SAN) said he knew nothing about the payment because it was approved and executed by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
He said he became a minister on April 6, 2010, by which time the transaction in question had been fully consummated by December 23.
He said there was no way he could be held accountable for the Signature Bonus.
Adoke made the clarifications in a December 14, 2016 letter to the Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on the Alleged Corruption, Malpractice and Breach of Due Process in the Award of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, Razak Atunwa.
The letter reads in part: “Mr. Chairman, I had in the past issued several press statements, explaining the role I played as Attorney General of the Federation in the above transaction and the negotiations that led to the Out-of-Court Settlement of the dispute between Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited (Malabu) over OPL 245.
“I, therefore, do not intend to bore you with the details that are already in the public space. It suffices to refer the committee to my Comprehensive Position Paper dated July 23, 2013, which has been widely circulated to relevant offices and institutions such as the Office of the President, Vice-President, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives of the 7th National Assembly that investigated the matter and the media.
“I, however, wish to quickly correct the impression created by above quoted statement credited to the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the effect that I and my colleague Ministers of Petroleum and Finance were responsible for the payment of the signature bonus in respect of OPL 245 into an escrow account.
“I wish to state categorically that there is no truth in that assertion. Official records show that the escrow account under reference was opened pursuant to an Escrow Agreement dated December 22, 2003, between the Federal Government of Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase.
“Records also indicate that the payment of part of the signature bonus (US$ 209 million) by SNUD into an Escrow Account was approved by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, and the justification provided for the use of the Escrow Agreement mechanism was the pending proceedings over the revocation of OPL 245 by Malabu, the previous Concessionaire of OPL 245.”
Adoke said there was no way he could be held responsible for a transaction which was concluded about seven years before he became a minister.
The letter added: “It would be recalled that I assumed office as Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on April 6, 2010 by which time the transaction in question (payment of Signature bonus into an escrow account) had been fully consummated by December 23, 2003.
“I cannot therefore fathom how I could be held responsible for a transaction that pre-dates me in office. For avoidance of doubt, I wish to reiterate the following facts contained in the memorial filed on behalf of SNUD before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID):
“SNUD paid the signature bonus of US$210 million in December 2003, SNUD paid US$ 1 million via bank draft on December 23, 2003, SNUD paid the remaining US$ 209 million into an escrow pursuant to an Escrow Agreement with the FGN (as represented by the Ministry of Finance) and JP Morgan Chase, which was signed on December 22, 2003;”
“The Escrow Agreement – a mechanism suggested by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) – states that this solution was used in contemplation of proceedings over the revocation of OPL245 by the previous concessionaire of OPL 245.”
“I hope these above information will aid your committee in the discharge of its assignment. I align myself with the sentiments expressed by the Hon. Speaker, Yakubu Dogara at the committee’s opening session that: ‘OPL 245 has had a long history and had been the subject of many investigations, hence the need to put a finality to the matter’.
“I cannot agree more because some of us have been unduly vilified and our hard-earned reputations dragged to the mud by deliberate misinformation carefully orchestrated and choreographed to bring us to public odium and opprobrium.”
The former minister drew the attention of the House panel to the testimony of the incumbent Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) on Tuesday.
He said: “I have closely followed the proceedings of your committee from a distance, particularly the deliberations of committee as reported in Thisday Newspaper of Wednesday, December 14, 2016, to the effect that the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, had in his testimony before the committee stated inter alia that:
‘There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that the former Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, his Petroleum and Finance Ministry counterparts, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Mr. Olusegun Aganga, were fraudulently involved in the $1.092 billion controversial Malabu oil deal’.
“He however acknowledged that the payment of the money into an escrow account by the former ministers, instead of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, was illegal.”