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Malabu oil scam: Court adjourns hearing on arrest order against Etete, Adoke, others

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THE Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court in Jabi on Monday adjourned hearing to June 11 on the application to set aside the warrant of arrest charges against former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke and four others implicated in the $1.2 billion Malabu oil scandal.

Justice Danlami Senchi, the presiding judge in the case had earlier ordered the arrest of Etete, Adoke, alongside four others namely Ralph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefano, and Burrato Sebastiano on April 17 for evading trial since 2017.

Etete and his accomplices are facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged fraudulent allocation of Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245 and OPL 214, conspiracy, money laundering to the tune of over $1.2 billion, forgery of bank documents, and bribery against Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd that belongs to Etete.

Also standing trial are Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep (SNUD), Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) and their officials.

The case involves the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria of Nigeria’s OPL 245 offshore oilfield reported to be one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks for about $1.2 billion.

Etete’s counsel, L.O Ikwegwe told the court that she had just been served with the EFCC’s counter-affidavit and would need time to respond to it.

Joe Gadzama, SAN, who is representing the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants told the court that he agreed with his colleagues as he was yet to see the EFCC’s counter-affidavit and therefore, would be asking for an adjournment.

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He told the court that he served the EFCC the defendant’s affidavit since April 24, accompanied with the hearing notice, adding that with the new issues introduced in the counter-affidavit, he will be filing additional processes.

He urged the court to make the prosecution an undertaking not to proceed with the arrest since there was a legal challenge to it. He urged the court to put the order on hold since the matter was not heard.

Faje Opasanya, SAN, representing the fourth defendant also told the court that he was also constrained to ask for adjournment as new allegations were raised in the EFCC’s counter-affidavit.

He also told the court to restrain the EFCC from carrying out the arrest order. He stated that if by the next date his clients were arrested, the essence of the application would have been defeated.

Counsel to EFCC, Aliyu Yusuf reminded the court that the defendants’ applications were held for a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest and therefore prayed the court to reject the oral application for the stay.

Justice Senchi adjourned the matter to June 11 for hearing, noting, that the oral stay of execution submission made by the defendants’ touched on the main application and ordered a speedy hearing on the matter.

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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