By Onuora Aninwobodo
The Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, Olanrewaju Suraju has said that he has no regret whatsoever on the roles he played and is still playing on the ongoing trial of the Malabu OPL 245 scandal involving former Attorney General of Nigeria, Mohammed Bello Adoke and many others including oil giants, Shell and Eni, among other corruption cases in Nigeria.
Mr Suraju, in an exclusive Interview with our Abuja Correspondent, said there has been a lot of threat to his life for been at the forefront of the demand for justice over the Malabu OPL 245 scandal, but he is not deterred and has the conviction that the greatest threat to Nigeria’s collective will and development is corruption.
He said those that will possibly regret are those that see civil society struggle as a source of living; but for him and others that have the struggle as a conviction, ‘’with the background of student activism, it is one of the things we signed off on before embarking on the venture. “
The HEDA Chairman praised the media and civil society groups for their conscious effort to sustain the struggle for the eradication of corruption in Nigeria and maintained that without the effort, the political elite would have impoverished the country the more.
He described the petition to the Inspector General of Police against him, by Mr Adoke, as ”a blatant attempt to silence me and HEDA and other organizations involved in the investigation by Adoke. But it failed, as we will keep digging deep and will not stop until all involved are exposed.
“Instead of investigating the facts, where an email was sent vie an email address linked to a company that Mr Adoke is aware of and evidence in the public domain, act of harassment and intimidation was deployed.”
Recall that Mr Adoke sent a petition to the IGP’s office demanding a probe of email evidence presented against him by prosecutors in the Malabu trial in Milan, Italy.
The former attorney-general also complained to the police that some people, one of whom he said he suspected to be Mr Suraju, circulated a fake tape purporting it to be that of an interview he had with an Italian journalist admitting that the Malabu transaction was a scam.
But Mr Suraju, while reacting, said that the email in question had existed before they got involved in the investigation.
The anti-corruption activist described the Malabu experience as the most remarkable experience for the civil society organization and “it is indeed a course we are committed for our future. It is a case we have been involved in for the past 20 years, involving five countries and a single contract that almost started from 1998 up until now and still on,” he said.
“It is a contract that has cost Nigerians about $15 billion dollars, which would have been the proceed from this single oil bloc for the country, but some Nigerians who would have protected the interest of the country choose otherwise for their selfish personal interest. At the end, the country got only $ 250 million from the deal, while individuals went away with $1.1 Billion and at the same times private jets were bought and other luxury items when the country was in need for the contract proceed for its greatest survival.”
Mr Suraju commended the EFCC for some of the ongoing prosecution in the country.
He described the judgment in Milan, Italy regarding the malabu transaction as unfortunate, but said there is still room for appeal.
On the claimed document forgery, the HEDA Chairman said that the document referred to in the petition against him came into the public domain in late 2020, as part of the disclosures provided to a London court by JP Morgan. The bank is being sued in London by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for its involvement in the OPL 245 deal. The FRN subsequently included the document as part of its “Re-Re-Amended Particulars of Claim.”
In the claim, the Federal Republic of Nigeria stated that Adoke had sent an email from a Yahoo.com email account, email@example.com, to Bayo Osolake, an employee of JP Morgan. Copies of the “OPL 245 Resolution Agreements” were attached to the email. At the date the email was sent – 21st June 2011 – the Resolution Agreements were highly confidential and would not come into the public domain for approximately another five months.
He said that those that sent the email in question must have had privileged access to these documents which were confidential to those involved in the deal, not to mention access to the Yahoo email account used to send the email. They must also have known which of the JP Morgan employees they needed to send the email to.
“The email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – according to court processes filed by the Federal Government was associated with “the A Group of Nigerian companies controlled by Mr Abubakar Aliyu.” One of the A Group companies – A Group Construction – received some of the OPL 245 funds, after they had been transferred by JP Morgan to Malabu Oil & Gas, the company that until the deal was concluded, owned the OPL 245 oil block, ” Suraju said.
He said when he and his organization became aware of the existence of the email, “we believed it to be of relevance to the on-going prosecution of the OPL 245 trial in Milan. Thus, acting in the public interest, we together with our colleagues at Re: Common and The Corner House, formally notified the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office about the FRN’s claims in the High Court in London.
“The Milan Public Prosecutor then issued a European Investigation Order to the UK, asking for the email from JP Morgan. The UK authorities obtained the email, sent it on to Milan through the formal MLA channels, where it was accepted as evidence by the Milan Tribunal.”
Mr Suraju insisted that he had no role in the emergence of the email and interview in question and wondered when a Complaint becomes a Weapon of Harassment, a threat to Civic space, and to Nigeria’s Anti-corruption fight.
He maintained that the revelation so far and achievement of the resource center and others involved in the investigation and trial of this Malabu saga has so far revealed that the deal and corruption involved not only Nigerians, but other foreign bodies and individuals around the world, just like a network.
The HEDA Chairman said that part of the real threat to the whole process is lack of commitment on the part of principal actors in Nigeria, primarily emanating from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation for not properly coordinating the trials , as witnessed in UK and Italy and have constituted a source of embarrassment to the country.
The second threat is that the corruption in the system is yet over, both on the part of the past administration and the current administration, like the Ministers.
He made reference to the letter written to oil companies by former oil minister Ibe Kachukwu, on conversion of the license from OPL to OML, but commended President Buhari for being firm to override that conversion process, from OPL to OML, pending the conclusion of all the trial, which has technically voided all the licence, which has made all the licences to expire by the 11th of May, 2021.
He urged Nigerian media to be more involved both in the trial and prosecution, so that the ordinary citizens will be involved and know that this is not just like an ordinary oil licence, but this is like the natural resources of the country for which the citizens are made to benefit from, been stolen by some privileged individuals.
“The profit sharing agreement we saw showed that the profit sharing contract was not signed, but what was signed was the profit sharing agreement and Nigeria was denied the profit of that agreement to the tune of $5.6billion. If the agreement would have gone on, Nigeria would have lost that $5.6 billion.
“The regret is that politicians override professional advice from Civil servants when taking decisions on some of these contracts, especially Ministers and other executive official appointees,” he said.