HEDA Resource Centre, an anti-corruption NGO, has petitioned Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the impending arraignment of its chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, by the federal government over allegations of forgery.
Suraju is accused of circulating the audio of an allegedly stage-managed phone interview with Mohammed Bello Adoke, a former attorney-general of the federation, over the OPL 245 saga.
He is also accused of circulating a forged email purportedly sent to one Bayo Osolake of JP Morgan, UK, by Adoke from the account of AA Properties, owned by Abubakar Aliyu — who was accused of distributing bribes from the OPL 245 transaction in 2011.
The anti-corruption activist, who denies both allegations of forgery, is due for arraignment at a federal high court in Abuja on November 23.
In addition to a letter written to the inspector-general of police and press statements issued by his foreign partners to counter the allegations, Suraju has also filed a notice of preliminary objections to the criminal charges.
Among other things, he alleged a media trial and said the cyberstalking law under which he is being charged is “unconstitutional”.
However, section 221 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 says objections “shall not be taken or entertained during proceeding or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge”.
Also, the federal high court in Lagos ruled in 2016 that the cyber act was constitutional and the judgment was upheld by the court of appeal.
The extent of Osinbajo’s involvement in preventing the trial is yet unknown.
Sources in the office of the vice-president informed newsmen that HEDA sent a petition to Osinbajo alleging “an abuse and comprise of state institutions by Nigeria Police Force and Ministry of Justice” in the matter, adding that “corruption is fighting back”.
HEDA accused the IGP monitoring unit that conducted the investigation of “compromise” and attached a number of documents which the organisation said confirmed that Adoke sent the email-based a number of possibilities — such as having previously known Aliyu and having also corresponded with the officer of JP Morgan, although from his personal email.
“The vice-president has forwarded the petition to Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN, the attorney-general of the federation, for review and comments,” a source in the VP’s office said.
On if the vice-president can query a minister without passing through the office of the president, the source that “it is not a query per se — the VP is only bringing a petition before him to the knowledge of the honourable attorney-general of the federation”.
An official of the ministry of justice, who declined being named, told nesmen that the best thing for Suraju to do is to defend himself in court rather than solicit the intervention of Osinbajo.
“He is contending that the email in question was filed by the federal government but the same federal government has filed charges of forgery against him. It is better for him to present his evidence in court,” the official said.
Adoke previously accused Osinbajo of being involved in framing him up over the OPL 245 affair, an allegation the vice-president denies.
In February 2021, Adoke, through his lawyers, had petitioned the IGP requesting for an investigation into the email shared with the media by HEDA Resource Centre.
He said the email was intended to support the claim that there was corruption in the deal, to create the impression that he and Aliyu, owner of AA Properties, “worked together” to fleece Nigeria.
The former AGF said he was no longer minister as of the date it was sent and had no reason to use another person’s email address.
Adoke also debunked claims he had a phone conversation with an Italian journalist in 2017 in which he was said to have acknowledged that the OPL 245 deal was a scam.
He said the phone conversation was state-managed as he was on self-exile at the time and had stopped using a Nigerian line since June 2015.
Shell, Eni and others were eventually discharged and acquitted by the Italian court over charges of corruption in the OPL 245 deal.
The Italian prosecutors are now facing investigation over allegations of manipulating evidence to secure a conviction by unlawful means.