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Aondoakaa Indispensable as Yar'adua Plots to Influence Supreme Court Panel On Elections Petition

March 24, 2008
Saharareporters, New York

Evidence continues to mount about the corrupt practices of Nigeria’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa, but Umar Yar’adua appears helpless to rein in his main point man and link to the Supreme Court.

Yar’adua, who faces a strong challenge at the Supreme Court to the Appeal Court’s verdict upholding his “election,” has confided in aides that he is upset by Aondoakaa’s notorious profile as Nigeria’s most corrupt attorney general ever. Even so, Yar’adua’s associates who spoke to Saharareporters said the occupant of Aso Rock couldn’t afford to move against the AG. They described Aondoakaa as the anchor of Yar’adua’s plot to win enough judges in the Supreme Court to safeguard his fraudulent “presidency.”

Our sources revealed that, soon after presidential candidates Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku filed their appeals at the Nigeria's apex court, Yar’adua’s handlers launched a frenzied and intense lobby to influence the constitution of the Supreme Court panel that will preside over the presidential election’s appeal.

Aondoakaa is coordinating the efforts to influence the composition of a panel that would be susceptible to inducement in order to uphold the ruling of the Justice James Ogebe tribunal which last month ruled that Yar’adua was properly elected.

Aondoakaa and other members of Yar’adua’s kitchen cabinet, which includes ambitious “First Lady” Turai Yar’adua, have set their sights on a “dream” panel of Supreme Court justices headed by Katsina-Alu. Justice Katsina-Alu, who is from Benue State, belongs to the same Tiv ethnic group as the AGF and they are, by one account, distant relatives. One source told us that Katsina-Alu sponsored Aondoakaa’s elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

However, the team headed by Michael Aondoakaa is working assiduously to make Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina –Alu head the panel. Justice Katsina-Alu is Tiv native Ushongo of Benue State the same tribe as the AGF,

Reliable sources told Saharareporters that doctors at Aso Rock have been convincing Chief Justice Legbo Kutigi not to engage in any "stressful work." This is interpreted as a subtle way of asking him to exclude himself from the electoral panel. Justice Kutigi has a reputation for fierce independence, and most lawyers attest that he cannot be bribed.

Justice Kutigi, whose health has been shaky for some time, is currently in Europe to undergo a thorough medical check up. This is his second health-related foreign trip in the last three months. A close source told us that the Federal Government is lavishing care on the Chief Justice in order to keep him out of the panel.

Yar’adua’s camp is also counting on the absence of Justice Sylvester Umaru Onu, respected as highly principled. Saharareporters had earlier reported that Onu, who is the second most senior justice at the Supreme Court, is bed-ridden and is unlikely to participate in hearing the appeal.

Meanwhile, Aondoakaa, confident in his indispensability to Yar’adua’s judicial hopes, has continued a habit of peddling his office for illicit financial gratification. One intelligence source told us, “The AGF is a man who swims in the cesspool of financial impropriety.” The source also disclosed that Yar’adua was fully aware of Aondoakaa’s corrupt practices.

The attorney general has notoriety for seeking and collecting bribes from individuals and companies engaged with the Federal Government in legal feuds.
Two weeks ago, Saharareporters wrote an expose on the AGF's rendezvous in London with the anglo-Indian buyers of Ajaokuta Steel. Aondoakaa had checked into multiple hotel rooms and used the home of controversial businessman, Terry Waya, to negotiate for bribes from the company of UK-based Indian steel mogul, Laskmi Narayan Mittal. Mr. Mittal’s controversial purchase of the Ajaokuta Steel complex has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism, with many Nigerian legislators and interest groups calling for the deal’s cancellation.

After our report, an enraged Mr. Aondoakaa returned to Nigeria and told friends and associates at the Abuja Airport that he would destroy the publishers of Saharareporters for exposing his secret trip to London. He also threatened some Nigerian reporters who approached him to verify his itinerary in London. He threatened to “sue the pants” off any local reporter who culled our reliable report.

Aondoakaa’s shenanigans reared their head in the out-of-court settlement he negotiated with NICON Insurance to end a lawsuit brought before a Federal High Court judge by Jimoh Ibrahim to challenge the government’s hostile take over of NICON.

Our sources said Aondoakaa had demanded that Ibrahim pay him a bribe of N500 million in exchange for the government ending the siege on NICON, Ibrahim’s company. After Aondoakaa received the equivalent of N200 million in hard currencies, he unilaterally came to court with an "Agreement" drafted by Ibrahim's lawyers and filed it without seeking inputs from the Federal Ministry of Finance. But the deal collapsed when the case came up for hearing, with two ministers in charge of the Finance Ministry openly disagreeing with Aondoakaa. The AGF was thus forced to file another motion to withdraw the terms of settlement. Hawks in the Yar’adua government who insist on getting NICON back from Jimoh Ibrahim stalled the case.

Aondoakaa also engaged in another unilateral act when he sent a clearance to British Metropolitan Police with regard to GLOBACOM owner, Mike Adenuga.

After raising an alarm to the effect that his office was collaborating with the Metropolitan police to investigate fraud petitions against Adenuga, Aondoakaa contrived to send a report purportedly written by an investigative panel to exonerate Adenuga of any corrupt acts. If Aondoakaa set up any investigative committee to probe Adenuga, he did not include members of the security agencies. Sources in the police, EFCC and ICPC denied participating in any committee that investigated the businessman.

A source at the Metropolitan told Saharareporters that the department found Aondoakaa too connected to corrupt Nigerians to be a credible collaborator in corruption investigations concerning Nigerian politicians. The official insisted that Mr. Aondoakaa never communicated with officials of the Metropolitan Police over the Adenuga investigations. While refusing to comment on Aondoakaa's clearance report on Adenuga, the source reeled off areas where the AGF has stalled the war against corruption as far as the UK police was concerned.

The first was the AGF’s refusal to instruct Nigeria’s UK lawyers to proceed with the retrieval of four properties belonging to Diepreye S.P. Alamieyeseigha, a convicted former governor of Bayelsa State. The four properties are worth $20 million and are currently protected by British court orders.
The Mets source also said the worldwide assets belonging to former Governor James Ibori of Delta could be accessed by the Federal Government of Nigeria for repatriation since they are protected by the force of a British High Court order.

Pressed to explain how this was possible, since the case against Ibori was still in progress, our source disclosed that all the Nigerian authorities needed was to hire an independent solicitor in London to begin a "civil recovery" of the assets. He explained that this was the procedure followed in repatriating some of the loot stolen by Alamieyeseigha and former Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. “All the independent solicitor needs to do is approach the courts, obtain an order, to ask the Metropolitan Police to turn over the evidence in the their possession regarding money laundering acts by Mr. Ibori. The evidence can then be added to the one available in Nigeria to make a case for getting the assets repatriated,” according to our Metropolitan Police source

Saharareporters has learned that Aondoakaa has obstructed Nigeria’s UK-based lawyers by insisting that they pay his bills and buy him first class air tickets to hold meetings in London. He is also accused of requesting that the lawyers representing the Nigerian government pay him $3,000 per night during his trips to London if they want to receive any further briefs to work for the Nigerian government. Our source said the lawyers’ refusal to play along led the AGF to accuse them and the British government of “stealing Joshua Dariye's loot.”

A source in the Crown Prosecutors office told us that “these solicitors are willing to work for the Nigerian government, but the Nigerian government has seems determined to impede their work. I’m afraid the impression is left that the Nigerian government is out to help their corrupt friends whose assets are being held in the UK."

One of Aondoakaa’s most daring and scandalous moves is his collection of bribes from officials of Pfizer, the drug company in the US whose drug trials is now a subject of litigation between the Kano State government, and the Federal government. Soon after the judge issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Nigeria-based Pfizer officials, the AGF approached the drug company and demanded a pay-off in exchange for putting an end to the case. The bench warrants were never executed. Instead, a bizarre action took place in court when the presiding judge granted bail to the Pfizer officials even though they were never arrested or detained.

Aondoakaa is actively promoting an out-of-court settlement with Pfizer, a move already confirmed by Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Shekaru. Saharareporters could not confirm how much the AGF received as bribe money from Pfizer to end the case.
Aondoakaa’s latest entanglement has to do with his brazen demand for a cut of the N41.8 billion awarded by a high court against the Nigerian government over the destruction of Zaki Biam in Aondoakaa's home state of Benue. One Dr. Alexander Gaadi, who led 7 others in a 7-year long legal challenge against the Federal Government, has accused Aondoakaa of planning to assassinate him for refusing to share the compensation award with the AGF.

Our sources revealed that Aondoakaa was working behind-the-scenes with General Victor Malu (rtd), who may still be in London, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and Terry Waya to force Dr. Gaadi to consent to part with a sizeable chunk of the settlement money.

When Dr. Gaaadi stoutly resisted the deal, Mr. Aondoakaa filed an appeal against the judgment award. Dr. Gaadi has openly cried out to the media alleging that Aondoakaa was threatening his life.

Aondoakaa has also received hefty bribes from several ex-governors undergoing investigation or trial by the EFCC. He has promised to frustrate the anti-graft cases.

At Aondoakaa’s advice, many former governors have fraudulently obtained medical records alleging that they are suffering from one ailment or another that prevent their appearance in court.

Former Governors Orji Uzor Kalu, Ayodele Fayose, and James Ibori have their cases stalled ostensibly on health grounds. Last week, a judge granted former Edo Governor Lucky Igbinedion permission to travel abroad for twelve days supposedly to see his family, renew his residence visa and obtain medical care.

According to our sources, Aondoakaa is privy to these medical ruses aimed at slowing down the cases until the trio of Aondoakaa, Ibori and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State can force Yar'adua to accept their candidate as new head for the EFCC. The trio has already perfected plans to install a new chairman of the anti-corruption agency who has agreed to withdraw all the criminal cases against corrupt ex-governors.

While Aondoakaa's activities have brought international embarrassment to Yar’adua, the “President” is said to implicitly support the AGF. A source close to the AGF dismissed persistent rumors that Yar’adua plans to remove the Andoakaa. “Look, Chief Aondoakaa is President Yar’adua’s captain at the Supreme Court. Yar’adua wants to hold on to power, so why would he remove his captain and best player? Chief Andoakaa’s position is safe.” The source also said that Yar’adua was in no position to probe Aondoakaa.

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