Malabu Oil Verdict: Top lawyers beat ‘war drum’

  • As Chief Olanipekun, SAN, keeps own gun powder dry

Four respected silks including a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi, SAN, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe SAN, Dr. J.Y. Musa, SAN and Olalekan Ojo, SAN, are angry.

Their grouse was a publication few days ago by an online newspaper—Peoples Gazzette— alleging that a prosecutor of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Offem Uket, was bribed by a legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN to bungle the Malabu Oil case on OPL 245 involving former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN.

The online newspaper had claimed that Uket was thereafter sacked by the Chairman of EFCC, Ola Olukoyede for sabotage.

The principal accused person in the brewing case, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, is yet to reveal his plans on how he would wrestle his accuser and the big masquerades behind the publication to reclaim his battered image.

But the four silks, ahead of Olanipekun’s shrouded plan, have petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to investigate the claims of the online newspaper and make its findings public to all Nigerians.

The aggrieved four silks were led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN to appear for the second defendant – Alhaji Abubakar A. Aliyu— in the controversial Malabu case.

They said they were pained by ‘the false, malicious, unfounded and absolutely baseless trending publication targeted at disparaging the name and person of our esteemed leader, Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN.”

The petition came after the EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, cleared the air in the case, urging the general public to ignore the “effusions of mischief makers in the matter”.

Although it is not clear yet what plan Chief Olanipekun, SAN, has to clear his name, in what appears a titanic battle with the newspaper, the four silks have refuted the claim that Chief Olanipekun, SAN represented Adoke, SAN, as wrongly imputed by the newspaper.

Below is their statement on the issue, signed by two of the silks—Messrs Musa, SAN and Ojo, SAN:


Our attention has been drawn to a false, malicious, unfounded and absolutely baseless trending publication by the Peoples Gazette, targeted at disparaging the name and person of our esteemed leader, Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN in respect of Charge No.: FCT/HC/CR/151/2020 FRN V. MOHAMMED ADOKE, SAN & 6 ORS wherein he led four (4) other Senior Advocates of Nigeria for the 2nd Defendant – (Alhaji Abubakar A. Aliyu).

A well-considered ruling of 77 pages on the No Case Submission, made by each of the defendants, was delivered by the learned trial Judge, Kutigi J on 28th March, 2024, after which the learned trial Judge discharged all the defendants on the respective counts filed against them.

Be it noted by the general public that contrary to the very vexatious publication by the Peoples Gazette, the erudite ruling of the learned trial Judge was not based on any concession purportedly made by the Prosecution to the No Case Submission of any of the parties, rather, it was rooted in the substance and quality of evidence produced by the Prosecution, which was elaborately and painstakingly analyzed by the Honourable Judge.

In the said wicked publication, based on uninformed and dubious sources, heinous allegations were made against the person of Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN, a Doyen of the Nigerian Bar.

Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have bothered to respond to this handiwork of mischief makers.

However, for the sake of the innocent public that have been fed with this toxic falsehood, we need to put the records straight.

Contrary to the content of the dubious and criminal publication that Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN and Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN attempted to compromise Offem Uket, Esq., the Prosecutor in the matter, the point must be made that Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN did not represent Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN in this case, as he (Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN) was represented by a team of six (6) Senior Advocates, led by the respected Chief Kanu Agabi, CON, SAN, a former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Nigeria.

Each of the other defendants was equally represented by seasoned Senior Advocates of Nigeria and experienced Legal Practitioners. Three (3) of the defendants are multinational companies.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the defendants in the charge are: Mohammed Bello Adoke, Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

The trial lasted for four years, in the course of which the Prosecution sought adjournment eight (8) times, whereas, the ACJA allows a maximum number of five (5) adjournments for any party.

It is also worthy of emphasis, that out of the 40 counts filed against all the defendants, only one count related to our client, and which said count, with all sense of modesty, was weak and bound to fail, for diverse reasons.

Out of the ten (10) witnesses who testified for the Prosecution, nine (9) of them stated in clear terms that they did not know our client. Thus, we did not bother to cross-examine them.

The Investigating Police Officer who only referred to our client confirmed under cross-examination that the N300,000,000.00 (Three Hundred Million Naira) given by our client (the 2nd Defendant) to Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN was a refund of the purchase price for a failed property transaction, and not bribe.

With the nature of the case presented against our client, there was/is absolutely no basis whatsoever for the cultivation of any thought to compromise the Prosecutor or any other person for that matter.

It has never been in the character of Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN to compromise any person for any purpose, including, when it relates to administration of justice.

The malicious publication is meant to malign our Leader in this case, a Leader, who, by the grace of God Almighty, is also a foremost Leader of the Nigerian Bar.

We cannot fold our hands and watch any person or group pull down the name that our Leader has built over the years, through hard work, self-discipline and the fear of God.

We are not unaware that envy and malice are part of the driving and ulterior forces propelling and motivating the wicked authors of this publication to descend this dirty and low.

We are also not unmindful of the fact that in the course of rendering his professional duties and services to his clients, our Leader, just like any other leading lawyer of his pedigree, has stepped on the toes of some powerful people, who are always looking out to seek revenge.

Without prejudice to any other action or step which our Leader may deem fit to take in the circumstances, we hereby call on the Nigeria Police Force to investigate this sordid and criminal publication, make their findings public, and apply the full force of the law accordingly.

This is imperative in the interest of all concerned and the Nigerian public.

From the summary of the case presented herein, it is clear that neither the lazy authors of the odious publication nor their sponsors cared to either source or investigate the truth of the matter or read the well-considered ruling of the Court, but were only interested in maligning the character and reputation of the learned Silk.

They mischievously brought his name to their publication so that it could attract traction and for clout chasing.

For the purpose of clarity, the legal team of our client (and defendant) comprised: Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi, CON, SAN, Chief Ifedayo A. Adedipe, SAN, Dr. J.Y. Musa, SAN and Olalekan Ojo, SAN.

These tested Senior Advocates led several members of the Outer Bar for the 2nd Defendant”.

It is instructive to note that Justice Abubakar Kutigi of the FCT High Court in Abuja had upheld the no-case submission of the defendants and dismissed the charge.

The judge further chided the EFCC for wasting four years on a trial without providing evidence.

But after the verdict, reports surfaced online that the commission had sacked its prosecutor for allegedly collecting bribes from Adoke and Olanipekun (the lead lawyer to Aliyu Abubakar) to bungle the case.

A credible source also disclosed that Uket was on contract but the commission did not renew the contract because the Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, was unhappy that Uket conceded that there was paucity of evidence for the case to proceed to trial without due consultations.

But in its first official reaction over the matter, the EFCC in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, urged the general public to ignore the “effusions of mischief makers in the matter”.

The statement reads in part, “The EFCC has commenced a review of developments around the Malabu OPL 245 fraud case, including the dismissal of the charges against the former AGF, Bello Adoke (SAN) by a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja and the conduct of the prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket.

“The review will entail exploration of the option of appeal and possible change of counsel in view of the Commission’s dissatisfaction with the handling of the case by Uket.

“Nevertheless, this intention has no nexus whatsoever to the spew of speculations imputing compromise by parties to the charge, currently making the rounds in some sections of the media .

“EFCC is not obliged to embrace such narratives as it neither accused any of the parties of any unsavory conduct nor made any conclusive statements about any investigation on the matter.

“The public is enjoined to ignore the effusions of mischief makers on the matter and await the next course of action.

In his ruling in the matter on March 28, 2024, Justice Kutigi faulted the EFCC for filing “frivolous” charge against Adoke and other defendants.

The judge further upheld the no-case submission filed by Adoke and other defendants and dismissed the charges of fraud, bribery and conspiracy against the former AGF and other defendants on the grounds that the EFCC failed to adduce credible evidence to prove the allegations contained in the charge.

Although the judge commended the EFCC for conceding that it did not have sufficient evidence to oppose the no-case application by Adoke and other defendants, the judge criticized the commission for wasting four years prosecuting the case.

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