The Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Jabi has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to serve the criminal charges of alleged abuse of office and money laundering in respect of the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI, brought against a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, and others by substituted means.
EFCC’s head of media and publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday.
According to him, Justice Danlami Senchi gave the order in a ruling on Friday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Justice Senchi lifted the arrest warrant earlier issued against the defendants and ruled that it would be reissued after the prosecution has served them by substituted means due to their unavailability.
The EFCC had obtained a warrant of arrest on April 17 against Adoke, as well as a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, and four others over the OPL 245 scandal.
It filed criminal charges against the defendants but decried it has been difficult for it to serve them the charges or produce them in court as a result of their absence from the country.
The situation forced the anti-graft agency to apply for a warrant of arrest against them, which was granted by the court, empowering the Nigeria Police Force and Interpol to arrest them anywhere they were seen.
EFCC also said it has been difficult to execute the warrant as the defendants allegedly remained in hiding in foreign locations, leaving the court to contend with endless adjournments in the matter.
Thereafter, the defendants through their counsel went to court and asked that the warrant be set aside, based on the fact that the EFCC has so far not served them any charges.
Justice Senchi obliged them, saying the application was meritorious.
He had stated that the EFCC ought to have served the charges to the defendants before applying for the arrest warrant that was granted to it.
The trial judge further ruled that the arrest warrant would be reissued against the defendants if they refused to show up in court after they have been served and upon a new application by the EFCC.
He, however, stated that the EFCC ought to have informed the court that it could not trace the defendants so as to serve them the charges.
Justice Senchi added that the court would have authorised the commission to serve the defendants by substituted means, which may be by a newspaper advertisement or through their legal representatives when they were in court.
Following the pronouncements, the prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Yusuf, informed the court that the EFCC would apply to serve the defendants, through their legal representatives.
He said, “As we cannot serve them because they are at large, we will write an application for leave of court, permitting us to serve the accused through their lawyers and if after adjournment they did not show up, we will still ask the court for a warrant of arrest.”
The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo had revoked the OPL 245, which the late General Sani Abacha granted Etete who was his Petroleum Minister and reassigned it to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company.
But Malabu Oil and Gas was said to have reclaimed the oil block in 2006 through the court while Shell challenged the decision.
The EFCC claimed that fraudulent settlement and resolution ensued, allowing Shell and Eni to buy the oil block from Malabu in the sum of $1.1billion.
It said investigations into the deal revealed crimes that border on conspiracy, forgery of bank documents, bribery, corruption and money laundering to the tune of over $1.2 billion.