By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
Nigeria’s erstwhile Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, has signalled his intention to return to the country four years after proceeding abroad on self-exile.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the former minister dismissed suggestions that he was evading prosecution by the Nigerian authorities.
Mr Adoke said he was getting ready to return between July and September, after four years outside the country on self-imposed exile.
“I am ready to submit myself to prosecution. I am not ready to submit myself to persecution,” he said, as he justified his prolonged stay outside the country.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said some appointees of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, including Mr Adoke, have questions to answer concerning the infamous $1.1billion Malabu Oil scandal for which oil giants Shell and ENI are being prosecuted in multiple jurisdictions.
But the former attorney general has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and a Nigerian court ruled in April 2018 that he cannot be held personally liable for his role in the controversial deal.
In the judgement, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court agreed with Mr Adoke’s submissions that his involvement in the transaction, which resulted in the sale of Nigeria’s oil well, OPL 245, was in compliance with his constitutional duties as attorney general.
In his interview with this medium, the former minister said his stay abroad has little to do with the Malabu matter.
He said he initially left the country for further studies but that as he was planning to return after his academic programme, he received counsel from some influential well-wishers that there was a plot to unjustly incarcerate him and that he should stay away from harm’s way.
“I would not put myself before a moving train,” he said. “… I needed to be heard because the modus operandi of those investigating was working to an answer, not investigative.”
Mr Adoke said he also needed time to attend to his health while also documenting the story of his stewardship.
The former minister, who left Nigeria in June 2019, first headed to The Hague, where he undertook advanced studies in international criminal law, graduating in August 2016.
“I worked on some very credible intelligence at that time from people from within and outside the government. I was advised not to come back at that time,” he told this newspaper.
“So, I had the option to go on for my PhD. I had even submitted my proposal for the PhD. At the same time, allegations were being made against me, which I needed to clear. At the end I opted for writing about my experience.”
Former Attorney-General of the Federation, Bello Adoke.
Mr Adoke said he has just completed his memoir titled “Burden of Service”, which is due for release in July.
He described the book as a tell-all narrative which documented his five-year tenure as attorney general of the federation, and some key political and administrative moments of the country during the period of his stewardship.
Mr Adoke said many people accused of infractions were not being accorded fair hearing during investigation, hence his decision to first tell his own story.
The book’s title, he said, underlines the burden that comes with public office in Nigeria “because it is really a burden to serve Nigeria as a country that is ungrateful to those who have served it”.
Mr Adoke lamented that his job as attorney general was a tough and difficult one, with many expectations and difficult decisions to contend with.
“From my experience, if people can’t eat, it is the attorney general,” he said. “If people don’t get appointment, it is the attorney general. If people didn’t get this, it is the attorney general. So, it is a very difficult job and people who have passed through that office would tell you that it is very difficult.”
Mr Adoke however commended former President Goodluck Jonathan for giving him free hands to operate as the country’s number one law officer.
“But I was very lucky, I had a very understanding president. I had a president who allowed me to do my work. I had a president who has a listening ear.
“I had a president who understood the fact that he was a constitutional president and must work within the confines of the law.
“On issues of the law he deferred to me. If you tell the president something is illegal he would not go ahead and do it, no matter the prejudices or his preferences.”