OrderPaperToday – Global anti-corruption groups, human rights movements and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have strongly condemned the detention of leading Nigerian anti-corruption activist, Olanrewaju Suraju, of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) over forgery allegations surrounding the acquisition of the OPL 245 oil field by oil multinationals, Shell and Eni.
Mr. Suraju’s HEDA, alongside Corner House, Global Witness and Re:Common, have been accused by the former Nigerian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, of forging an email that formed part of the prosecution’s case in the recently concluded trial of the two multinationals and 11 other defendants in Milan.
The defendants were all acquitted.
The email was reportedly sent to an employee of JP Morgan Chase, the bank that held the proceeds of the deal on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It was signed by a certain Mohammed Bello Adoke.
The email was reportedly from an address associated with a company owned by Aliyu Abubakhar, who is charged along with Adoke in Nigeria with offenses related to the OPL 245 deal. Abubakhar denies wrongdoing in Nigeria, as does Adoke.
The email first came to light in 2021 as part of civil proceedings by the Federal Republic of Nigeria against JP Morgan Chase in the High Court in London and cited by Nigeria in support of its claim.
In a joint statement, Mr. Suraju and the three NGOs have categorically denied Adoke’s assertions that the email is a forgery. The statement reads in part:
“We recognise that the email would certainly appear damaging to Mr. Adoke. Specifically, its points to an apparent association between a Mohammed Bello Adoke and the Abubakar company that subsequently arranged the purchase of a house for former Attorney General Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN.
“Moreover, that association is specifically tied to the OPL 245 deal through the email.
“We categorically deny that we forged the email, the notion is entirely fanciful. It was obtained through a government-to-government request from Italy to the United Kingdom. The documentation is now part of the public record and Mr. Suraju supplied the full intergovernmental correspondence to the investigating police officer.
“It is clear from the correspondence that the email was obtained from JP Morgan by the UK Serious Fraud Office and transmitted directly to the Milan Prosecutor. Neither Mr. Suraju and his organisation HEDA, nor Corner House nor Global Witness nor Re:Common were involved at any stage in the chain of custody.
“The original email as received by JPMC will have properties and electronic information that would enable the identification of the IP address from which it was sent. The Nigerian police should request this information and release Mr. Suraju immediately”.
“We will be raising Mr. Suraju’s totally unjustified detention with the board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and calling for Nigeria’s suspension pending an investigation into Mr. Suraju’s detention and the motivation for the allegations of forgery.”