HEDA alleges defamation, gives Adoke 14 days to retract or face court action

One of Nigeria’s anti-corruption groups, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) has given a 14-day ultimatum to former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, (SAN) to retract his defamatory statement or face court action.

HEDA said the petition written against the group was a conscious to bully tactics so as to divert public attention from the substance which involves a string of shady deals committed by top Nigerian officials in the celebrated OPL 245 scam. HEDA said Adoke, through his lawyer, Kanu Agabi attempted to destroy the reputation of the anti-graft group through a string of lies aimed at diverting public attention from gross allegations of corruption that surrounded the OPL 245 deals.

‘Defamation is being employed as a tool to shift public debate from a clear case of corruption Nigerian politicians and their collaborators. The case of forgery of emails made by Adoke and his group is a cheap act of defamation that HEDA will vigorously challenge” HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju wrote in the petition addressed to Adoke’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi.

Hundreds of groups and individuals had risen up in defense of HEDA at home and abroad for the group’s consistent outcry against graft in high places.

The letter to Agabi marked ‘Defamation of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju’ said Adoke’s petition titled “Forgery of Documents for Purposes of Interference with the Course of Justice” widely reported by media houses was entirely untrue, highly defamatory and misleading to the law enforcement agency.

HEDA said it was wrongly accused by Adoke of criminal acts, namely forgery and falsification of evidence, accusations that are highly damaging to the reputation of HEDA as a respected anti-corruption group in Nigeria and abroad.

As the Petition states, the email may have been sent on Adoke’s behalf. It is also possible your client sent it with the deliberate omission of the suffix, SAN, to serve as alibi in situation like this. However, we categorically deny that we forged the email. The accusation, for which the Petition has failed to provide a shred of supporting evidence, is libelous and we therefore seek an immediate remedy.

We note that neither you nor your client made any to seek our comments prior to the publication of your Complaint.

HEDA asked Adoke to issue a full retraction of the defamatory statements made against the group and its Chairman at the earliest possible date. “If within 14 days of the receipt of the letter, no retraction has been made, we will initiate action against Mr. Adoke SAN and his agents,” Suraju said.

He said the group reserve the right to bring proceedings in Nigeria or any other jurisdiction where damage has been caused.

“We are currently assessing the extent of the damage to our reputation caused by internet publication of the Petition in Nigeria. Given the wide readership of Nigerian newspapers which reported the Petition online across the world, we believe that many readers will have read the defamations. Our actions towards remedy of the damages will depend on the speed and nature of your response”, the anti-corruption group said.

Adoke’s petition had demanded an investigation into what was alleged to be “various acts of forgery” by “the parties responsible for the petition, investigations and commencement of the criminal trial at the court of Milan against the individuals/entities connected with the OPL 245 settlement agreement”. The Petition also states “the persons or organisations behind these forgeries are the ones that authored the petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), demanding the investigation of the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement”. 

Since 2013, HEDA has played a leading role as one of the parties responsible for the EFCC petition leading to the investigations and prosecution in Nigeria.

HEDA stated “Your client, Mr. Bello Adoke further appeared before the Inspector of Police’s Monitoring Unit to adopt this petition and specifically mentioned the names of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju as a suspect referenced in your letter”  He said HEDA was accused of criminal acts, namely forgery and falsification of evidence – accusations that are highly damaging to the reputation of HEDA as a respected anti-corruption group in Nigeria and abroad.

“HEDA has authored over 500 complaints to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and other international law enforcement agencies on cases similar to that your clients, resulting in investigations, prosecution and convictions of those affected. The OPL245 is one of these several complaints and never was the organization accused of bias or misleading the law enforcement agencies in any of these complaints” the group said.

HEDA recalled that the existence of the email in question came to light after it was disclosed by JP Morgan Chase to the Federal Republic of Nigeria [‘FRN’] as a result of proceedings in the High Court in London where the FRN is currently suing the bank for damages relating to its handling of funds arising from Shell and Eni’s acquisition in 2011 of the OPL 245 field in Nigeria (case number: CL-2017-000730). Mr. Adoke was the Attorney at the time of the deal, a key negotiator and signatory to the Resolution Agreement between FGN and Malabu.

The Nigerian authority, Suraju said further, stated in court documents that the email address was associated with “the A Group of Nigerian companies controlled by Mr. Abubakar Aliyu” adding that A Group Construction, which is part of the group, subsequently received some of the OPL 245 funds which were transferred by JP Morgan Chase bank to a company named Malabu & Gas.  The group said an independent investigation has revealed the email address [email protected] is a pre existing email address and was owned and registered with Corporate Affairs Commission as the official email address of a Company, School Aid App Ltd, in which Mr. Aliyu Abubakar is a shareholder and Director. With this established fact, it is certain a genuine petition seeking investigation would have conducted this basic check and appropriately direct suspicion to owners of the email. We are not surprised at the otherwise direction of the petition on behalf of your client.

HEDA said Adoke has a long standing relationship with Mr. Abubakar Aliyu, the registered owner of the email address under investigation. “In his autobiography titled “Burden of Service”, Mr. Adoke admitted this much when he said, …….Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, a builder and a developer whom I had been acquainted with for a long time, had earlier approached me with an offer to sell me a house for N500 million.” Both are being prosecuted for money laundering and other charges in relation to this deal by the efcc.”