The Nigerian police have accused Olanrewaju Suraj, an anti-corruption advocate, of peddling allegedly fabricated evidence subjecting a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to media trial in respect of the Malabu oil saga.
Mr Adoke had petitioned the police, accusing Mr Suraj who chairs the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), an accountability and transparency advocacy group, of peddling the piece of evidence tendered in the Malabu oil trial in a court in Milan, Italy, where oil giants, Eni Shell, and along with their top officials were being prosecuted.
In their report of the investigation sent to Mr Adoke on request, the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Unit which handled the case, alleged that Mr Suraj circulated the information via his organisation’s social media accounts without verifying its authenticity.
The police also said Mr Suraj’s organisation is unregistered, a claim this newspaper found to be false by a mere check of the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
HEDA Chairman, Suraju Olanrewaju
“A thorough investigation was carried out and in the course of an investigation, it was evident that Mr Olarenwaju Suraju of Human and Environmental Development Agenda-an unregistered organisation, without verifying the authenticity of the purported telephone interview and email proceeded to use the social media handle of @HedaAgenda on Twitter and @HedaResourceCentre on Facebook to disseminate same,” the report dated September 2, 2021, read in part.
The Malabu case, in which the email evidence complained about by Mr Adoke had featured, involved 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 fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, in the Eni and Shell’s controversial acquisition of OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks, which Mr Etete had awarded to his Malabu Oil and Gas Limited while serving as the petroleum minister in the late Sani Abacha regime.
Being the AGF who advised then Goodluck Jonathan administration on the OPL 245 transactions at the time, Mr Adoke has allegedly been linked to bribery of officials and individuals connected with the deal.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has also indicted Mr Adoke accusing him of accepting N300 million from Abubakar Aliyu, a controversial businessman and one of Mr Etete’s cronies, as a bribe in connection with the transaction in September 2013.
While Shell and Eni, alongside their managers, were the main defendants in the case in Italy and have been acquitted, Messrs Adoke, Etete and Aliyu have pending cases filed against them by the EFCC in Nigeria.
But Mr Adoke, before the acquittal in the Italian court in March, wrote to the Inspector General of Police, demanding an investigation into a piece of email evidence presented against him by prosecutors in the Malabu trial in Milan.
In the petition dated February 5, the former justice minister claimed that an email presented at the Italian court and purported to have originated from him was “forged” and presented in court to “interfere with the course of justice.”
The former minister told the police in his petition that those behind the alleged forgery were unknown to him, but urged the police authorities to expose them.
He also complained that some people, one of whom he suspected to be Mr Suraju, circulated the allegedly fake tape purporting it to be that of an interview he had with an Italian journalist where he admitted that the Malabu transaction was a scam.
He insisted that he granted no such interview, adding that the tape was concocted and circulated.
PREMIUM TIMES later reported how Mr Suraju, who with other anti-corruption activists gave support to the Italian prosecutors and petitioned the ex-officials in Nigeria, was detained by the (IGP) Monitoring Unit in Asokoro, Abuja, in April.
ALSO READ: Malabu Oil Scam: Groups hail appeals against acquittal of Shell, Eni
He was later released on bail after questioning.
The police now alleged in the two-page report that Mr Suraj feigned sickness and jumped bail during investigations.
They said he “resorted to issuing press statements maligning the police, writing frivolous counter petitions and filing civil suits in Court against the IGP Monitoring Unit, Force Headquarters, Abuja and the Police, aimed to undermine the investigation and to evade the course of justice”.
The police said the claims made by Mr Suraju that his foreign partners, national and international agencies were the authors of the information he shared were misleading.
“The totality of the conduct of Olarewaju Suraju is a calculated attempt to resort to media trial and to falsify relationship between Mohamed Bello Adoke, SAN, and Aliyu Abubakar while their cases are still ongoing in court, thereby misleading the public, of which elements of a prima facie case of cyber-stalking, giving false information to a misled public officer, injurious falsehood and criminal defamation with intent to incite exist;” the report concluded.
The report holds no water, Mr Suraj said when asked for his reaction by PREMIUM TIMES.
On the police allegation that his organisation was unregistered, he said HEDA was duly registered, describing the police claim as a cheap blackmail.
He added: “When you check the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission, you will see our (company) registration there; from the February 24, 2004.
“We have sued the government and taken several legal actions locally and internationally. And you can’t embark on such legal actions without the legal status of your organisation to do that. No company can go to court and sue anybody without proper registration.
“To add, in one of my many previous meetings with the police, they have checked on the website of the commission, in my front and they saw my registration that dates February 24, 2004.”
PREMIUM TIMES independently confirmed Mr Suraj’s organisation was registered.
Mr Suraj, however, blamed those not pleased with his anti-graft fight for the “fabricated” police report.
He added, “Although we are going to issue a statement today, I would rather say to you officially, that I know corruption would fight back. Those behind that fake report are not aware of the level of investigation done by both the EFCC, Police and other partners.
“As far as we are concerned, the subject of the petition is about an email forgery and not about an organisation stalking or cyberstalking,” the activist said.
“And it is not for me to deny or accept. It is for them to work through their cybercrime unit, Interpol and establish truly if that email was true or not.”