The immediate past Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), yesterday denied knowledge of an Escrow Account that was opened and $32.5 million fines from Halliburton Energy Services, paid into it.
Mr. Adoke said he was not briefed about the existent of any Escrow Account at any time by a member of the legal team of the Federal Government, Mr. Roland Ewubare, who was a former Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
He explained that the team was constituted to initiate criminal proceedings against the five companies involved in the Halliburton bribe scandal.
The five firms, which later settled for plea bargain, were: Julius Berger ($35m); Siemens (Euros 30m); Snamprogetti ($30m); Halliburton Energy Services ($32,500,000) and Japan Gasoline Corporation ($26, 500,000).
The ex-Minister was reacting to reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was looking into the roles played by two former National Security Advisers; Gen. Aliyu Gusau (retd.) and the late General Owoye Azazi, and two former AGFs on the facilitation of $200million Settlement Agreement with Halliburton and four others.
The past AGFs are Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (SAN) and Adoke (SAN).
Mr. Aondoakaa, who was recently interrogated by the EFCC, has denied benefitting from the agreement in any manner whatsoever.
Decrying the attempt by the anti-graft agency to rope him in by all means possible, Mr. Adoke said he did his best in service to the nation as AGF and Justice Minister.
In an exclusive telephone interview with The Nation on Thursday, the ex-minister said: “On assumption of office in 2010, I was approached by then chairperson of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, that she has a request from some American lawyers to sue, on behalf of Nigeria, Halliburton and associated companies involved in the $180 million bribe scandal.
“She came with the lawyers to see me and when I read the terms of their demand. I declined to engage them and rather opted to set up a team of lawyers to initiate criminal proceedings against the companies against the backdrop of our previous experience in the Pfizer case.
“The lawyers introduced by the EFCC wanted to be entitled to 33 1\3 of whatever was recovered, which I felt was outrageous and also wanted us to cede the control of the case to them.
“I asked the EFCC to nominate a lawyer into the team and Godwin Obla (SAN) was nominated while Emmanuel Akomoye, the then secretary of the commission was co-opted to assist the team.
“In the course of the prosecution, there was a need to enter into plea bargain due to National Security concerns and Kayode Are, the Deputy NSA, was directed by the then NSA, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, to lead the negotiations.
“After the negotiations and agreement were signed, the OAGF was requested to furnish the federal accounts in which the fines were to be paid. And that was the sequence all the other negotiations followed.
“I was not aware of the opening of the Escrow Account in the USA nor was I informed and I didn’t know of the existence of any such account before now. I, therefore, have no explanation to offer than I had previously offered on record.
“The EFCC should, therefore, spare me the ordeal of trying at all cost to bring me down for I am beyond blemish in this or any other transaction while in office”.
He challenged any lawyer that had ever given him bribe to come out and say so, adding that as AGF, he was very careful.