In an exclusive interview with PT from Addis Ababa, the former president said he considered the controversial award of OPL 245 oil field licence as the “height of corruption,” and, as such, could not have participated in negotiations that led to it.
“I don’t support that kind of conduct,” Obasanjo said in his first reaction to the intercontinental oil scandal that has haunted three administrations for nearly a decade.
The rebuttal came a day after Mr. Adoke distributed excerpts of a petition he sent to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, alleging victimisation and persecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr. Adoke told his successor to call the anti-graft agency to order because he was not the only official who acted on behalf of Nigeria in brokering the Malabu Oil deal with international oil majors that included Shell and Eni.
He specifically mentioned Obasanjo’s name, alongside his two successors and their appointees.
“I believe it is your responsibility to explain to the public who are being sold a fiction that the transaction started from President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR under whose administration the Terms of Settlement were brokered with Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, as the then Attorney General who executed the Terms of Settlement before the tenure of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR who approved the final implementation of the Terms of Settlement and my humble self who executed the resolution agreements,” Mr. Adoke said in the petition dated March 6.
“This is more so as the settlement and its implementation were situated in the Federal Ministry of Justice,” he added.
The petition was sent three days after Mr. Adoke accused the EFCC of lending itself to manipulation by powerful political interests, after the anti-graft agency slammed fresh charges of money laundering against him and one of his associates, Aliyu Abubakar, accusing them of sharing millions of dollars in fraudulent proceeds.
In the charges, filed at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the EFCC said Mr. Adoke exchanged more than $2.2 million at a bureau de change in Abuja as part of his share of the controversial $1.1 billion Malabu Oil deal.
Prosecutors believe Mr. Abubakar, the controversial owner of A.A. Oil Ltd., acted as middleman in the questionable deal.
The EFCC said in the court filings that Mr. Adoke took delivery of $2,267,400 on September 16, 2013, and immediately got money changers to convert it to naira.
Based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time, Mr. Adoke made N345.2 million after successfully converting the funds. He subsequently deposited the money into a Unity Bank account to offset an outstanding overdraft of N300 million, court documents showed.
But Mr. Adoke denied the allegations, saying the EFCC knew the facts of the case but was deliberately muddling them up to confuse “gullible” Nigerians and malign him.
In his petition to Mr. Malami, the former AGF asked his successor to save him from “unwarranted attacks and dehumanising treatment” just because he “chose to serve” his “fatherland.”
He told the attorney-general that some other former government officials took part in the controversial deal and gave approvals.
“It will be recalled that the Terms of Settlement encapsulating details of the Settlement between the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited (Malabu) was executed on 30th November 2006.
“The Terms of Settlement, which was later, reduced into a Consent Judgment of the Federal High Court; Abuja was brokered by our predecessor in office, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN and signed on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria by the then Honourable Minister of State, for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR.”
He wondered why the EFCC had not invited those officials, especially since they did not deny their alleged roles.
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached for comments Monday afternoon. His known telephone lines were switched off.
Obasanjo, who clocked 80 earlier this month, admonished Mr. Adoke to concentrate on rendering accounts of his actions while in public service and stop dropping his name in the matter.
“Adoke and others should not drag me into a matter I know nothing about,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “If they have been asked to answer questions over decisions they took while in office, they should do that honourably.
“They should not bring Obasanjo into an Etete deal. I was not part of any such deal.”
Obasanjo said it was inappropriate for any government functionary to “appropriate to himself or herself what he or she is in charge of.”
“If I hold that view, I could not have approved a deal with Dan Etete. What Etete did is the height of corruption. He appropriated the asset to himself illegally, illegitimately and immorally,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
It was reported how Mr. Etete as petroleum minister in 1998 awarded the oil block to Malabu, a company which he partly owned.
The administration Obasanjo led granted approval for the re-award of OPL 245 block to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd., but when he was reminded of this fact on Monday, the former president stood his ground, saying he could not recall assenting to such a deal.
“I can’t remember giving approval that the block be given back to Etete,” Obasanjo said.
Baba Obasanjo challenged anyone to produce proof that he took part in returning the oil field to Malabu, saying Mr. Ojo and Mr. Daukoru might be in better position to explain what transpired.
“We gave it back to Malabu? On what ground? Do you have any such evidence? Ask Bayo Ojo and Edmund Daukoru what really happened because the stand I took at the time was unassailable.
“If Daukoru has evidence that I approved that the block be given back to Malabu or Etete, let him produce it.
“If it is proven that I indeed approved the deal, I would be willing to apologise to Nigerians. But we have to get to the bottom of it all,” the former president said.