…fixes Monday for hearing of bail applications

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Gwagwalada, Abuja, on Thursday ordered the remand of a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), and two of his co-defendants in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over their alleged involvement in the Malabu Oil scam.

The judge, Justice Idris Kutigi, also fixed Monday for the hearing of their bail applications.

Justice Kutigi, who had initially indicated intention to order the remand of the defendants in prison, changed his mind and asked EFCC to take their custody after the commission’s prosecuting counsel, Bala Sanga, succumbed to the pleas by the defence lawyers that the commision should hold them pending the hearing of their bail applications.

Meanwhile, Adoke was arrested by the EFCC on his return to Nigeria from a four-year exile on December 19, 2019.

He has since been in the detention of the EFCC and was produced in court from on Thursday.

The seven defendants, four of whom are corporate organisations, pleaded not guilty to the 42 counts instituted against them by the EFCC.

The charges involve alleged gratification of N300m, forgery of documents relating to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, abetting, among others.

Apart from Adoke, other defendants who pleaded not guilty to the charges read to them before the court included Aliyu Abubakar, who was accused of offering N300m gratification to the ex-AGF in relation to the Malabu Oil deal, a former company secretary and legal adviser of Malabu Oil and Gals Limited, Rasky Gbinigie.

The rest were Malabu Oil and Gas Limited,  Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

The deal involved alleged fraudulent transfer of the highly lucrative Oil Prospecting Lease 245 to Malabu in 1998 and subsequently to Agip and Shell.

The EFCC accused Adoke, as AGF, of playing a pivotal role and receiving bribe to facilitate a fraudulent deal between Malabu and Shell with Agip over the oil block.

After the 42 counts were read to the defendants and they pleaded not guilty to the charges, on Thursday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Bala Sanga, urged the court to remand them in prison.

Sanga also urged the court to fix a date for trial.
But the defence lawyers, including Mike Ozekhome(SAN), Kanu Agabi (SAN), Sole Olanipekun (SAN), and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), urged the judge to either release their clients to them or order that they be remanded with the EFCC.
They also pleaded with the judge to fix Friday for the hearing of their clients’ bail applications.
But Sanga insisted that he needed a minimum of five working days to reply to their various bail applications which he said were only served on him barely 24 hours earlier.
He also said the EFCC’s facility had so overstretched that it could not accommodate the defendants after their arraignment.
In the middle of the back-and-forth arguments on the issues, Olanipekun pleaded with the judge to suspend proceedings for about five minutes to enable the defence team to discuss with the prosecution.
The judge granted the request and rose.
The judge on his return from the break adopted the agreement presented by the defence and prosecution teams by ordering the three human defendants to be remanded in EFCC custody and fixed Monday for the hearing of their bail application.

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