The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday ruled that the immediate past Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, could not be held liable for his roles in the Oil Processing Licence 245 transactions.
Justice Binta Nyako, while delivering the judgment in the suit filed by Adoke against the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN, held that since Adoke only executed the lawful directives/approvals of the then President Goodluck Jonathan, the former minister was free of any liability for his roles in the deal.
Adoke was charged with various offences by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The charge involved his alleged roles in the transactions in which Nigeria was said to have been defrauded of about $1.8 billion.
The transactions involved the chains of transfer of the ownership of the OPL 255 covering a lucrative oil field.
The ex-Justice Minister subsequently filed the suit marked, FHC /ABJ/ 94/ 446/2017 , against the incumbent AGF praying to be freed from any criminal liability in respect of the transactions and declaring his prosecution by the EFCC null and void.
The suit was opposed by Malami.
Justice Nyako in her yesterday’s judgement, resolved all the issues raised for determination in favour of the plaintiff and also dismissed the preliminary objection raised against the suit by Malami.
She granted four of Adoke’s prayers but refused one which sought a declaration that his prosecution was null and void.
Justice Nyako noted that contrary to the defendant’s contention that the plaintiff exceeded the directive of the President and in the process committed a crime, Exhibits 19 and 20 , which remained uncontradicted and unchallenged , confirmed that the plaintiff actually remained within the confines of the lawful directives given to him by the President and is therefore protected by law.
Exhibits 19 was a letter written by the AGF to the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, to the effect that Adoke had no case to answer in respect of the actions he took pursuant to the directives/ approvals of the President in respect to the implementation of OPL 245 Resolution Agreement.
Exhibit 20 was a letter from the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources to the Chief of Staff to the President in response to the latter’s request for advice on the letter by the AGF to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC on OPL 245 Settlement Agreement implemented by the plaintiff, in which the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources agreed with the opinion of the AGF.
The judge said by the provisions of sections 5 (1), 147, 148 and 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the executive powers of the federation were vested in the President and which he could exercise either personally or through any of his appointed ministers.
She added, “I have carefully studied the provisions of sections 5 (1 ), 147, 148 and 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“A community reading of sections 5 (1 ), 147(1 ), 148(1 ) and 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) leaves you in no doubt that the executive powers of the federation, as vested in the President , are exercisable by him directly or through a minister of the federation.
“It is a fact that Exhibits 19 and 20 are not challenged by the defendant. Not having been challenged, the court is entitled to come to a reasonable conclusion that the plaintiff has discharged the burden required of him in accordance with Section 132 of the Evidence Act.
“On the whole, I am convinced that the provisions of sections 5 (1 ), 145(1 ), 148(1 ) and 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) are clear and unambiguous and should be given their literal and ordinary meanings.
“I, therefore, hold that the executive powers of the federation, vested in the President by virtue of Section 5 (1 ) of the Constitution, can be exercised by him directly or through ministers appointed by him.”
Justice Nyako granted four of the prayers.
She, however, refused to grant relief 5 where Adoke prayed for a declaration that his “prosecution by the EFCC, on account of his carrying out of the lawful directives and implementation of the approvals of the President while he served as a minister of the government of the federation, is illegal, null and void and inconsistent with the intendment of Section 5 (1) of the Constitution.”
The judge said the prayer was unnecessary and amounted to an academic exercise in the light of Exhibit 19 (Adoke’s letter to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC)