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Date Published: 10/25/10

Bello Adoke's wrong steps By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Nigerians by now are used to the misfortune of having some of the most controversial lawyers as Federal Attorneys General and Ministers of Justice since the return of the so-called civilian dispensation in 1999.

The office of the Federal Attorney General became a theatre of the absurd during the tenure of Mr. Michael Andoakaa who served ingloriously during the two year reign of the late President- Umaru Musa Yar’adua. The now disgraced former Attorney General Michael Andoakaa irritated a lot of rational thinkers in Nigeria when he asserted that the then ‘missing’ President Umaru Musa Yar’adua could rule as president of Nigeria from any part of the world even when members of the organized civil society were advocating the temporary transfer of presidential powers to the then Vice President- Goodluck Jonathan to act pending the re-emergence of the then president who was said to have been flown to a Saudi Arabian hospital for over four months.

Well, Biblical scholars had stated that the consequences of the sins of the fathers may not necessarily be visited on their children but may inevitably be unleashed on the offenders; Mr. Michael Andoakaa has started receiving his recompense for his apparent display of gross incompetence during his vexatious tenure as the Nigerian minister of Justice.         The legal practitioners’ privileges committee headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria recently suspended him from the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. To so many rational analysts, the suspension from the class of Senior Advocate of Nigeria is not enough sanction for a man who brought indignity and opprobrium to the office of the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice.

One of the core reasons why Mr. Michael Andoakaa is so much chastised by a lot of Nigerians especially in the organized civil society is the allegation that he compromised his position by aiding and abetting escape from criminal Justice by some former Governors who were indicted for corrupt practices even as he was accused of weakening the operational powers and capacity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

More than five or so months after the current president removed him and appointed other lawyers like Chief Adetokunbo Kayode and now Mohammed Bello Adoke, the office of the federal Attorney General is yet to regain its former respectable status in the estimation of rational and analytic minded thinkers in Nigeria. Adetokunbo Kayode, a fine gentleman never had the time to settle down as Federal Attorney General to try to repair the monumental moral damage done to that office before he was again moved to the office of the Minister of Defence by President Jonathan.

The current holder, Mr. Mohammeed Bello Adoke has committed three major blunders that have completely rubbished that office and many people are now comparing his with Mr. Andoakaa’s tenure.

Annoyingly, the Federal Attorney General failed to prosecute the former Governor of Zamfara State and current serving Senator of the Federal Republic Mr. Ahmed Sani Yerima for his alleged illegal marriage to a 13-year old Egyptian child of his driver after he purportedly paid a bride price of one hundred thousand United States dollars. Bello Adoke gave a funny reason that the girl in question is an Egyptian child and so is not covered by the Child Rights Act of 2003 which was passed in Abuja by the National Assembly.To put a lie to Adoke’s line of argument, Article 16 of the International covenant on civil political Rights which Nigeria subscribes to states that; “Everyone shall have the right of recognition everywhere as a person before the law”.

The second and third blunders of Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke are related in the sense that they both undermined the so-called commitment of the current administration to battle the scourge of corruption which has wrecked economic havoc on Nigeria and Nigerians. One of the earliest inexplicable Jobs the federal Attorney General did was to reach an accord to settle out of court with the federal commissioners and the chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) who were facing prosecution for alleged multi-billion naira financial impropriety charges.As if that damage was not enough, Bello Adoke announced to Nigerians recently that Julius Berger, one of the key suspects in the multi-billion bribery scam involving the United States based Halliburton has been forgiven after it paid some funny fines.

Barely twenty four hours to Nigeria’s golden jubilee, the birth day gift that the Federal Attorney General gave to Nigerians was to grant conditional pardon to a construction firm-Julius Berger which is alleged to be involved in the most damaging bribery scandals of all times. Other alleged foreign participants in the bribery scam have all been punished by the United States criminal justice system.

Mr. Bello Adoke withdrew the charges it filed against Julius Berger Nigeria Limited allegedly involved in the $180m Halliburton scam. In an attempt to deceive Nigerians, the Federal Attorney General said government of Nigeria would file a civil action against Halliburton Corporation in the United States to seek compensation and restitution within the next two weeks.

The Attorney General of the Federation said, “After a further review of the investigation reports as well as the totality of evidence available, I have approved the request of the prosecution team that the charges against the Julius Berger parties be withdrawn.

Consequently, the Julius Berger parties have entered into an agreement with the Federal Government. Whilst the agreement is subject to confidentiality protections, I believe it is the public interest to provide the following summary:

•    “The Julius Berger parties entered into the agreement on the basis of no admission of liability, culpability or guilt;

•    Julius Berger Nigeria Limited will institute a scheme of corporate compliance monitoring to improve and strengthen its internal control and mechanisms for a period of two years;

•    The Julius Berger Nigeria Limited will publicly affirm and restate its commitment to the dictates of good corporate citizenship through advertorial messages in electronic and print media outlets of national coverage and

•    Julius Berger Nigeria Limited will make an ex-gratia payment to the FGN.”        

President Jonathan must take immediate and verifiable steps to correct these blunders which have created doubts in the minds of Nigerians of the current federal administration’s commitment to battle the hydra- headed monster of corruption. We must collectively kill corruption or corruption will kill our dear Country Nigeria. It is wrong for Nigeria’s minister of justice to take actions considered as cogs in the wheel of anti-graft progressive fight.

*    Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.

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