A former Nigerian attorney-general and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, has given the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, seven days ultimatum to retract alleged defamatory statements made against him.
Mr Adoke issued the ultimatum on Wednesday through his lawyers led by Paul Erokoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The alleged defamatory statements were made at the ongoing hearing of the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) arbitration case in England.
Mr Adoke also asked Mr Malami to tender a public apology for making statements which he knew to be untrue and defamatory against his person.
Mr Erokoro said Mr Malami’s statements were not true and have negatively affected Mr Adoke’s image because the court proceedings were on live television in Nigeria and on social media around the world.
In the statement, Mr Malami had accused Mr Adoke of having a hand in the failed P&ID agreement, receiving kickback from the deal through former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, and also single-handedly selecting a legal team to represent Nigeria at the arbitration.
“Our client is astounded by your failure to inform the English court that under Nigerian law, any person charged with or accused of a crime MUST be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” the letter said.
“Rather, you pronounced our client guilty, even when you were fully aware that his trial had not even commenced. The Attorney-General’s oath of office includes an undertaking to protect and defend the Nigerian Constitution.
“The constitutional right to fair trial is severely breached when the Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria urges the court of a foreign jurisdiction to regard and even pronounce a Nigerian guilty of an offence without a trial. It was your unfortunate and wrongful pronouncement of guilt on our client that emboldened the FRN’s counsel in England to tell the whole world that our client is corrupt.
“This has done incalculable harm to our client’s name, reputation and standing in society. Our client will suffer even more harm if the English Court, misled by your evidence, makes an adverse finding against our client. It is for this, among other reasons that the first duty of the Attorney-General and indeed all counsel, is to the Court,” the letter read in part.
Mr Adoke noted that he became Attorney-General of the Federation on April 6, 2010, while the negotiations for the gas project had been on from 2009, adding that he only became aware of the P&ID matter when the Ministry of Petroleum Resources requested in 2013 that he appoint an arbitrator as well as counsel.
The letter reads in part: “Our client finds it remarkable that you found no fault in the appointment of the arbitrator but found fault with the appointment of counsel, even though the two appointments followed the same process. For this reason, our client is forced to conclude that your vilification of his name is merely a case of giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it.
“Our client asserts that even though he appointed Mr. Shasore as counsel, Mr. Shasore’s legal fees were paid by the administration of President Buhari, long after our client had left office, a fact well known to you.
“It is also on record that our client was not involved in any of the negotiations with P&ID for settlement, which all took place under your watch. The initial proposal for settlement was delivered to President Jonathan. The President referred the matter to our client for his advice. Our client advised the President to leave the matter to the in-coming administration, since the President’s tenure was ending in 8 days.
“You also conceal these facts from the court even though the records have been in your office all along. If our client had been part of any corrupt scheme with P&ID as you claimed in your evidence, surely our client would have jumped at the chance to give P&ID a favourable settlement.”
Mr Adoke argued that the final award was issued in July 2015, months after he had left office.
“Your evidence was therefore unfair and uncharitable to our client because you are aware that all the attempts at settlement with P&ID took place under your tenure as Attorney-General, a fact you freely admitted in your witness statements,” he added.
Mr Adoke argued further that when the government requested information from some banks in the United States Government on all bank accounts owned by former President Goodluck Jonathan and others, it was discovered that he has no foreign account.
He, therefore, called on the minister within the next seven days on receipt of his letter to take necessary steps to correct the misleading and false statements against him.
“Our client demands that you retract the false evidence that you gave to the English Court, regarding him and apologise for the harm done to his name,” he said.
Mr Adoke also demanded that Mr Malami should instruct his counsel in England to desist from repeating the allegations of corruption and other defamatory imputations broadcast about him.
“Our client demands that you propose appropriate monetary compensation for the violation of his constitutional rights and for the damage to his reputation,” Mr. Erokoro added.