Former minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation during President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, Mohammed Bello Adoke has opened up on government activities between 2010 and 2015.
In an interview with The Cable, Adoke revealed how he was warned by a top security agent to run away from the country before his former boss handed over power to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) trumped up fake charges against him and some of their operatives approached him to settle them and kill the case.
See some excerpts from the interview
I will bifurcate my answer and repeat what I said earlier on. I want to say again that I am not running away from Nigeria. Before the 2015 elections, I had made up my mind to go back to school whether or not President Jonathan got a second term. I opted to study public international law because as you may be aware, I was elected as a member of the International Law Commission. After the election, I got the admission and went to do an advanced LLM at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. Before I traveled, something interesting happened. On the 20th of May 2015, a security officer in the Presidential Villa approached me and said, Sir, please whatever you do, leave Nigeria before the 29th of May. I dismissed this straightaway with the wave of the hand. He came back again and said, Sir, I am serious, you’re one of the few ministers who were nice to us, please leave on the 28th. On the 28th in the morning, he met me at the villa again and said, Sir, I hope you’re leaving today and I said yes, just to dismiss him. I could see disappointment written all over him when that night we went to the villa at the dissolution of the federal executive council. He saw me again and said, Oga, you’ve not left? I said yes, but I would leave. He said today is gone but please make sure you leave in the morning.
Then in the morning, I went to the airport in company of the former vice-president. President Jonathan was to hand over and meet us at the airport. While we were there, an incident happened that showed me that yes, something was amiss. The holding room where the president sits until the plane is ready to ferry him, when President Jonathan came, the boy that was supposed to open the place for him had already disappeared. Nobody opened that place for us. It was a hostile environment. We were less than two, three hours out of office! I was very downcast and disappointed. When President Jonathan left, I went home. Then I met this same security officer. He said, Sir, I beg of you, please leave tonight. I said to myself, well, God is speaking to me. So I took my beg, went to the airport and bought Lufthansa ticket and left Nigeria to go for a well-deserved holiday.
I came back to Nigeria to pick up my things to prepare for my LLM programme, which was to commence on the 20th of August. It was while I was there that I got a call that EFCC wanted me for questioning over OPL 245. I found it very curious and funny. I found it suspicious. I felt if they wanted information the first thing to do was to approach the sitting attorney general since government is a continuum. They should normally say to the attorney-general, we are investigating this issue, please furnish us with documents and information on this and that. More so, I had previously written unsolicited to the EFCC and they had expressed satisfaction with the way the transaction was handled. Being a law-abiding citizen, I got my lawyers to write to EFCC that I was preparing for my examination and that I would not be able to honour their invitation. I promised to come in on the 28th of December, 2015 to honour their invitation.
Then one of my friends, I won’t mention his name, said he got a call from somebody saying they knew he was my good friend, that he should talk to me to “settle” them if not I would have serious problems. My friend said he started laughing. He called me and told me, and I said he should not worry, that I had done nothing wrong and I had no money to give to anybody. But that put me on the alert. Then on the 21st of December, I finished my examination. I told all my children that they should not go to Nigeria yet, that we should meet up in Dubai and have a good family Christmas we had not had in a long while. Then I would be proceeding to Nigeria to honour an invitation and that I was sure by first or second of January, I would be back for my studies. That was my mindset. I booked my ticket to be in Nigeria on the 27th of December.
So while I was in Dubai, I kept on getting calls telling me there was a plan to humiliate me. I laughed it off. I still did not take it seriously. I prepared to go on the 27th. I never thought that what they were telling me could happen in Nigeria. I said we are running a constitutional democracy. I knew it could happen under a military regime, but not under a democracy. On the 26th, in the evening, my son showed me a news flash that said ‘former AGF Adoke to honour EFCC invitation on December 28, to be arrested, detained and charged to court’. My children said, Daddy you are not going back to Nigeria in view of these revelations. That was how I changed my mind. A friend of mine whom I had earlier sent to them said they kept calling him to say, is he coming? He tried to convince me, and I almost changed my mind, but he too had a change of mind and advised me not to come.
Then something significant happened. The PA to the solicitor general/PS at the ministry of justice by the name Shehu Bida passed a message to me that there was a plan to disgrace me over this Malabu issue, but somebody was requesting that if I paid $3 million to them, then they would take me to see a certain big woman in the villa, they would take me to see the vice-president, they would take me round and then the matter would die down. I said where would I get that kind of money? Then he said, in Hausa, that no matter how small, I should find something. I was accused of taking $2.2 million bribe and I was to kill the case with $3 million! Isn’t that ridiculous?
Before then, I almost forgot, on the 27th of December, I was in a Dubai hotel when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, walked in. I couldn’t believe my luck. I greeted him and he received me very warmly. He was extremely pleasant to me. I told him I had been hoping to see him. I asked for an appointment. He asked his ADC to sort it out. I used the opportunity to prepare a detailed brief for him. I had been told that the Milan investigators already came to see the president over the Malabu issue and the president passed the papers to the VP. I was confident that since he too is a lawyer and had handled similar transactions before, like Enron and so many other things, when he was attorney-general of Lagos state, he would be in a better position to look at the issues and advise government appropriately. That must have been a mistake on my part from the look of things. He acknowledged receipt of my letter and all the attachments that I sent through Senator Andy Ubah. I copied the DG of SSS and even the EFCC itself, as well as the attorney general’s office. It was necessary because they started playing funny games at the ministry of justice, where the solicitor general/permanent secretary was then acting when ministers had not been appointed. They lied that I did not leave any files behind. It was my secretary who debunked the claim when the attorney-general was appointed, he was able to retrieve the files from the solicitor general/permanent secretary’s office. By the way, the same Lawal Abba is the solicitor general/ PS’s best friend. They are always together. They are like twins.
After my detailed brief was sent to the VP, the same Lawal Abba went about telling people that if I think I could get succour from the vice-president, I was deceiving myself. He said the vice-president was with them. He said they had reached the vice-president and told him everything. Incidentally, I never heard from the vice-president again. I did not return to Nigeria because I had even been told that an operative had been planted in my house that was to inform EFCC as soon as I landed. Some operatives were waiting at the airport. I was not to be allowed to come into my house if I came through the normal route. I was to be whisked away and taken to detention. But if I came by some other route, the operative was to inform them I was home so that they could come and grab me with a lot of media sensation. All these pieces of information made me conclude that this is not a normal situation. And in an abnormal situation, you cannot take a normal decision. The world should hear your own side of the story even if you are going to die. It is not about dying. It is about documenting history. There were lots of attacks on me in the media, all kinds of lies and tales from EFCC.