An anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda has dragged former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, (SAN) to court, for allegedly publishing false and malicious claims, which the group said is damaging to its image.
In a suit filed at the FCT High Court in Abuja, HEDA has requested that Adoke withdraw a statement that is considered malicious and pay a sum of N100 million in damages.
Adoke is the solicitor for two oil giants, Shell and Eni, who are also main suspects in the OPL 245 scam which led to a huge loss for Nigeria running in billions of dollars.
Shell and Eni had been on trial since 2018, relating to their 2011 purchase of an offshore Nigerian oilfield, known as “OPL 245”.
The companies agreed to pay $1.3 billion for the license to explore the field. $1.1 billion of the company’s payment was to be paid to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company controlled by Nigeria’s former Oil Minister, Dan Etete.
In the latest suit, HEDA's lawyers have demanded payment of N100 million for damages to the reputation of HEDA Chairman, Suraju Olanrewaju, and a retraction of the false claims.
HEDA has assembled a team of lawyers led by human rights lawyer, Kunle Adegoke (SAN) to prosecute the case.
In the writ of summons, HEDA alleged that there were attempts to subvert the wheel of justice in the ongoing criminal trial of parties connected with the OPL 245 settlement agreement in Italy and Nigeria.
The group alleged that the suspects, who are currently on trial have tried to cover up their dirty tracks by resorting to blackmail and arm-twisting tactics targeting HEDA, which is leading the global campaign.
HEDA also alleged injury and malice against the company and its leading officials.
Lawyers of the anti-corruption agency said the allegations in the said statements are injurious to the character, reputation, and integrity of the organisation.
They also stated that HEDA does not deserve to be credited with “committing the offence of forgery or collusion with investigators and public prosecutors in Milan, Italy, and Nigeria with the unlawful aim of procuring false documentary evidence for use in subverting the wheel of justice in the ongoing criminal trial of parties connected with the OPL 245 settlement agreement in Italy and Nigeria,” as the statement implied.
HEDA claimed it authored a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which spurred an investigation that led to the prosecution of persons and entities amongst which is the author of the defamatory statement, Adoke.
The lawyers also stated that Adoke is aware that HEDA did not forge the email dated 21st June 2021 or the interview between Adoke and Carlamaria.
They further said Suraj was alarmed to receive several telephone calls and messages from Adoke's friends, professional colleagues, associates, and well-wishers on the subject of the statements credited to Adoke which described HEDA and its official as committing the offence of forgery.
He said many of the callers were human rights activists and members of the public who were deeply worried about the threat to his integrity as a well-known human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner and thereby challenged his avowal to the tenets of HEDA as a human right and anti-corruption body and queried his capability to continue leading the organisation in its anti-corruption campaign.
The summons, therefore, claimed that friends and partners of the HEDA Chairman, Suraju Olanrewaju "were shocked by the allegations of Adoke in the statements, whom they had hitherto regarded to be an advocate of good governance.
"As a matter of fact, some of my friends could not fathom how I could engage in activities causing embarrassment to the organisation.”
The lawyers said on April 1, Suraju was invited by men of the Nigeria Police (IGP Monitoring Unit) and confronted with a handwritten statement of Adoke where he specifically named him as the person who forged the email dated 21st June 2021 and the telephone interview alleged to have occurred between Carlamaria Rumor and the Adoke.
"Suraju was grilled by the police for upwards of about nine hours and still being investigated on the false allegations of Adoke till date,” Kunle Adegoke said.
He said the news of Suraju's arrest and detention was circulated in all mainstream and online news media, wherein he was maligned and utterly embarrassed on account of the malicious publications. He said this prompted the threats he received from groups including oil giant, Eni.
He said the reports were circulated worldwide.
The lawyers averred that Eni certainly believed the allegations in Adoke's publication and that it is upon this belief that it premised its threat.
HEDA said the dust of lies peddled against the organisation has cast immeasurable aspersion on the reputation of the group and the standing of its leaders in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.
He said the false and heinous allegations of forgery, inflicted grievous damage on him and his organisation.
HEDA insists that since the time of the publication, other well-meaning persons and organisations both locally and internationally have written to Adoke demanding that he should withdraw his false publication and tender an apology but he has blatantly refused.
At the trial, HEDA said it would rely on the publication of the United Kingdom Anti-Graft Group, Corner House of 25th April 2021, and HEDA’s publication of 27th April 2021 respectively requesting a retraction by the defendant of his publication as published by several news outlets.
HEDA is seeking a declaration that the publications were harmful.
The group is also seeking an order compelling Adoke to immediately withdraw the said publication and statements published worldwide on various national daily newspapers, mainstream, and online news media and tender an unreserved apology in two national dailies.
He asked the court to compel Adoke to pay damages to the Claimant in the sum of NGN100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) as compensation for the reputation of the claimant that the defendant has put on the line maliciously.a