Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, charged Mohammed Adoke, a former justice minister and attorney general, for allegedly taking a bribe to facilitate a $1.3 billion oil deal.
The anti-graft body filed 42 charges against Adoke and accused him of receiving a 300 million naira ($831,000) payment from businessman Aliyu Abubakar in relation to the acquisition of Oil Prospecting License 245 in the Gulf of Guinea, the commission said in an emailed statement.
Adoke pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the case was adjourned to Jan. 27 when bail applications will be heard, the EFCC said.
Abubakar is also being tried alongside other parties, including the local units of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Eni SpA. The two companies, who deny any wrongdoing, are accused of improperly settling disputes over the oil field.
OPL 245 was created in 1998, when then-petroleum minister Dan Etete carved out the offshore license and awarded it to his own company, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. Through successive regimes it was taken from him, awarded to Shell, and then given back, locking the companies and government in legal disputes.
To win control of OPL 245, Shell and partner Eni paid the Nigerian government $1.1 billion. The companies agree the payment was made, but disagree about whether those funds went to bribes.
Mohammed Adoke had written a book, which he published late in 2019, in which he absolved himself of any wrongdoing in the Malabu Oil deal. Soon after publishing the book, he fled the country to the United Arab Emirates where he was arrested by Interpol.
He was picked up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission immediately he returned to Nigeria from Dubai in December, 2019.
Adoke has slammed the EFCC for “desperately manufacturing evidence” to tie him to the Malubu oil scandal and tarnish his image.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he never collected $200 million for the oil bloc or deal and that the scandalous transaction was done before he took office as president.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg