By Oke Peter
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has expressed difficulty in arresting the former Nigerian petroleum minister, Dan Etete and Mohammed Adoke in the ongoing trial for the alleged diversion of $1.1 billion in sale of Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245.
As a result, trial was stalled on Thursday, as prosecutors were unable to present the accused person before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice John Tsoho.
EFCC had charged both Etete and Adoke with fraud for their roles in sale of OPL 245 during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“My Lord, the process of getting the defendants to come to court has proven difficult,” the agency’s lawyer, Johnson Ojogbane, told the court.
“Both Etete and Adoke are not in the country. They are outside the jurisdiction of the court and we cannot try only Abubakar. That’s why we asked for time to finish the process of bringing them back,” Mr. Ojogbane said.
The case was adjourned till February 15.
Meanwhile, the federal government on Thursday, announced that UK authorities had returned $85 million (about N30 billion) to Nigeria.
The money was part of the $1.092 billion paid by Shell and ENI to Malabu for the OPL 245, but was frozen at the request of Italian authorities, prompting investigations in four countries from three continents.
Etete awarded the richest oil block in Africa to Malabu in 1998.
Both Shell and ENI claimed to have paid the money to the Nigerian government not knowing who the final beneficiary would be however, the
Nigerian government through the former attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, claimed it acted as a facilitator between two parties.
After the oil giants paid the $1.1 billion into a Nigerian government account in the UK in 2011, Adoke, the then attorney general of the federation, authorised the transfer of the money to Etete’s accounts in Nigeria.
However, testimonials from persons identified as middlemen in the deal, showed that only about $801 million of the money could have been transferred to Etete’s account.