A rights group, the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED), has condemned the attempts by some individuals and interest groups to use institutions of the Nigerian state for the sinister purpose of intimidating, harassing and silencing genuine anti-corruption crusaders demanding accountability in the OPL 245 saga, popularly referred to as the Malabu scandal.
The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.
Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by ex-president Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began.
In a statement obtained by SaharaReporters, CHRICED said anti-corruption campaigners, who are insisting on justice and restitution for sundry acts of looting and plundering of the nation’s scarce resources are being unduly pressured in a bid to silence them.
According to Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the group’s leader, those indicted who should be answering for their actions are being pampered and protected using the institutions of the state.
The statement read, “This disturbing reality is apparent in the curious role currently being played by the Nigeria Police and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which appear to have lent the weight of their institutions to desperate efforts by some indicted persons to smear and undermine frontline anti-corruption activist, Mr. Olarenwaju Suraj.
“One becomes worried by the vivid account presented in the NaijaArea story of October 10, 2021 on the state conspiracy on the Malabu saga, including the haste with which the case file on the alleged cyber-stalking case against the activist was put together. CHRICED is also shocked and much dismayed about hounding and harassment of Suraj, who has made indelible contributions as far as the fight against corruption and its destructive effects on the Nigerian polity, are concerned. CHRICED attests to the fact that Mr. Suraj is a courageous and patriotic citizen who put the interest of the country above his personal comfort and convenience, by leading the Nigerian leg of the campaign to hold to account, officials who ripped the country off through the Malabu OPL 245 oil block deal.
“Those after Mr. Suraj are the direct beneficiaries of this grand scale larceny against the Nigerian people in which $1.1billion disappeared into the private pockets and bank accounts of public officials. Those monies would have gone into the treasury to fund basic services in health, education, infrastructure and other development goals. These corrupt elements, who sacrificed the interest of the country on the altar of their greed appear to have succeeded in influencing the Nigeria Police Force to recommend Mr. Suraj for prosecution by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for alleged cyber stalking.
“It is pathetic that the report sent by the Police to the Attorney-General, recommending the anti-corruption activist for prosecution basically rehashes allegations by a former Attorney-General Mohamemd Bello Adoke that an email was forged to incriminate him during trials in Italy and London over the Malabu scandal. It is shameful and embarrassing that Nigerian law enforcement authorities are on the verge of prosecuting a citizen over an email, which the same Nigerian authorities tendered as evidence in courts, both in Milan and London, in the course of the trial over the can of worms that was the Malabu deal.
“CHRICED invites well-meaning citizens to ask the Police the following questions: if the email in question was the very one tendered in evidence by the Federal Government’s legal team, what is the justification for the Police hounding a citizen by alleging he forged the same email adduced as evidence by the government? Is the Nigerian Police Force, in essence, asserting that the Nigerian Legal Team presented forged documentary evidence before the courts in the aforementioned jurisdictions?
“Above all, the same Adoke whose petition is being used as a basis to hound Mr. Suraj is currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on multiple charges bordering on money laundering. It is therefore strange that while the EFCC is in the process of holding Adoke and his cohort to account, the police appear bent on giving the impression that Adoke is innocent even before the process of trial is complete.
“However, the most tragic aspect of the persecution of Mr. Suraj is that it is happening on the watch of a government, which made promises to the Nigerian people that it would fight and vanquish corruption. It is now clear that those promises were, not only empty; they were made to hoodwink the electorate at the time. It is galling that the same corruption, which the regime promised to fight is now operating from its inner sanctum. When compromised elements within institutions of the state like the Police and the Justice Ministry become willing tools in the hands of corrupt and unpatriotic elements, one is left to wonder what will become the future of the country. There can therefore be no mistaking the fact that the actions of these elements amount to a violation of the 1999 constitutional provision in Section 15(5), which makes it clear that the “the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”
“Notwithstanding these grotesque and unacceptable realities, CHRICED stands with Comrade Olarenwaju Suraj, as we strongly believe he is innocent, just as we know he will be vindicated. He is only being hounded and coerced because he has demanded accountability, which is the right of every citizen in a democratic system. CHRICED calls on patriotic and well-meaning civil society organizations to speak up, and use every legal means necessary to insist on the protection of the rights of Comrade Suraj.”