Judge’s absence stalls HEDA chair, Suraju’s arraignment over alleged falsehood against Adoke

Judge's absence stalls HEDA chair, Suraju's arraignment over alleged falsehood against Adoke

The scheduled arraignment of Olanrewaju Suraju, the head of an anti-corruption non-governmental organisation, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), over alleged cyberstalking was stalled at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.

Mr Suraju was accused of peddling falsehood against a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke.

The AGF office accused Mr Suraju of circulating “fabricated email and audio files” to malign Mr Adoke in respect of the Malabu scam case.

At the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, Mr Suraju was scheduled to take his plea before Binta Nyako, the trial judge.

Though Mr Suraju was present in court for the arraignment, the court did not sit and no reason was given for Mrs Nyako’s absence.

The arraignment was then adjourned till January 24, 2022.

Background

Mr Adoke had petitioned the Nigerian police over the circulation of the audiotape and email which Mr Adoke said were forged to rope him into the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 corruption case in Milan, Italy.

Mr Adoke’s petition to the police concerned the email and audiotape that featured in the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

Investigators and activists alleged that Mr Etete bribed some top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration after Eni and Shell controversially acquired OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.

Mr Etete had awarded the block to his Malabu Oil and Gas Limited while serving as petroleum minister in the late Sani Abacha`s regime.

As then AGF, Mr Adoke advised the administration of Goodluck Jonathan on the OPL 245 transactions at the time. His name has repeatedly featured in matters connected to the deal.

The Nigerian government did not benefit from the $1.1 billion transferred for the acquisition of the rich oil field.

It has, therefore, been part of civil and criminal cases in the U.K., Italy, and the U.S. in a bid to bring beneficiaries of the fraudulent transactions to book and to recover proceeds of the controversial deal from them.

The Milan court acquitted Eni, Shell and their managers earlier indicted by Milan prosecutors in respect of the Malabu Oil trial in Milan.

The police investigated Mr Adoke’s petition against Mr Suraju and subsequently sent the case file to the AGF office which filed a cyberstalking case against Mr Suraju.

In the four-count charge filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the federal government accused Mr Suraju of allegedly circulating “fake email and audio interviews” about Mr Adoke on his social media handles.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is currently prosecuting Mr Adoke in connection with the controversial $1.1 billion Malabu Oil case in 2011.

In the charges filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office and marked FHC/ABJ/CR/370/2021, Mr Adoke was listed as one of the four proposed witnesses to testify against Mr Suraju.

The EFCC had also accused Mr Adoke of accepting N300 million from Abubakar Aliyu, a controversial businessman and one of Mr Etete’s cronies through whom proceeds of the controversial Malabu deal were allegedly funnelled to government officials and others.

Mr Adoke had, however, denied any wrongdoing, saying his transaction with Mr Aliyu was a property purchase deal that fell through after he could not raise the monetary balance for the asset.

Charges against Suraju

The charges filed against Mr Suraju with the endorsement of a Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Justice, A. O. Shaibu, read as follows:

Count one

“That you Olanrewaju Suraju, Male, of 20, Mojidi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did intentionally circulate an audio telephone interview alleged to have occurred between one Miss Carlamaria, rumour a reporter with RIA in Italy, and Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN via your Twitter handle @HEDAagenda which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult to Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention ETC) Act 2015 and punishable under the same Section of the Act.

Count two

“That you Olanrewaju Suraju, Male, of 20, Mojidi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did intentionally circulate an audio telephone interview alleged to have occurred between one Miss Carlamaria, rumour a reporter with RIA in Italy, and Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN via your Facebook page with the handle @HEDAresourcecentre which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult to Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention ETC) Act 2015 and punishable under the same section of the Act.

ALSO READ: Malabu Scandal: HEDA writes Malami on Suraju’s alleged cyberstalking case file
Count three

“That you Olanrewaju Suraju, Male, of 20, Mojidi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did intentionally circulate an email dated 21st June, 2011 with the email address [email protected] owned by A Group Properties and received by a certain Osoluke Bayo O with the email address address [email protected] which you knew to be false via your Twitter handle @HEDAagenda for the purpose of causing insult to Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention ETC) Act 2015 and punishable under the same section of the Act.

Count four

“That you Olanrewaju Suraju, Male, of 20, Mojidi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, sometime in 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did intentionally circulate an email dated 21st June 2011 with the email address [email protected] owned by A Group Properties and received by a certain Osoluke Bayo O with the email address [email protected] which you knew to be false via your Facebook page with the handle @HEDAresourcecentre for the purpose of causing insult to Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention ETC) Act 2015 and punishable under the same section of the Act.”

Suraju denies charges

The HEDA chair, who has denied any wrongdoing in a series of statements he issued on the matter, had said the items he was accused of fabricating featured as exhibits in the Malabu Oil scam trials in Milan, Italy.

Mr Suraju had lodged a N100 million libel suit against Mr Adoke for allegedly defaming him with the claim of alleged fabrication.

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