The Nigerian government has filed criminal charges against Olanrewaju Suraju, the head of a non-governmental organisation, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), over alleged cyberstalking.

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

In a 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.

The charges come months after Mr Suraju filed a N100 million libel suit against Mr Adoke for allegedly defaming him with the claim of alleged fabrication.

Mr Suraju, 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.

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.

No date has been fixed for Mr Suraju’s arraignment.

Charges

A copy of the charges seen by our correspondent on Saturday, which was endorsed by a Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Justice, A. O. Shaibu, reads 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.

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 agroupproperties@yahoo.com owned by A Group Properties and received by a certain Osoluke Bayo O with the email address address bayo.o.osoluke@jpmorgan 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 agroupproperties@yahoo.com owned by A Group Properties and received by a certain Osoluke Bayo O with the email address bayo.o.osoluke@jpmorgan 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.”

Background

The former AGF 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 prosecution 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 suspect 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.

Mr Adoke was the AGF who advised the Goodluck Jonathan-led regime 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 has acquitted Eni, Shell and their managers earlier indicted by Milan prosecutors in respect of the Malabu Oil scandal.

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.

Mr Suraju and the Malabu matter

Mr Suraju, who denied fabricating either the email or the audio interview, which featured in the Milan trial, accused Mr Adoke of defaming him by levelling the fabrication allegation against him in a February 2021 letter published in various media platforms.

The anti-corruption activist had said items he was accused of fabricating were exhibits tendered in the criminal case involving OPL 245 controversial deal, generally referred to as the Malabu Oil scam, in a Milan court in Italy.

Mr Suraju, whose organisation has been providing support for Milan prosecutors, had also said the said email was used by the Nigerian government in its civil case against Chase Morgan Bank which played a role in the controversial $1.1 billion.

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