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OPL 245 Scandal: Biased media reports protect oil giants, former public officers – Group

OPL 245 Scandal: Biased media reports protect oil giants, former public officers – Group

Godwin Tsa, Abuja: 24 MAY 2020

A coalition of local and international anti-corruption movements have raised concerns over what they allege to be a plot to foil the corruption charges against some mega oil companies involved in the Malabu (OPL 245) oil scandal.

In a statement on Sunday, the groups under the aegis of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Re-Common, Cornerhouse and Globalwitness collectively called on the media to protect the interest and integrity of the judiciary by being professional in their reportage on the scam associated with OPL 245.

The statement was signed by Antonio Tricario, (Re-Common), Nicholas Hidyard ( Cornerhouse) Simon Taylor (Global Witness) and HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju.

The coalition said it was sub-judicial for a section of the media to attempt a verdict while the judicial process is yet to run its full cause.

It noted that a section of the media had chosen to comment on proceedings that are partisan, inaccurate and misleading commentary aimed at influencing the outcome of a trial before it has run its full course, adding that such media interference constitutes a serious threat to justice.

The OPL 245 is one of Africa’s richest oil fields handed over to an obscure company, Malabu Oil, that had registered in 1998 under the military regime of late Gen Sani Abacha.

It later witnessed a string of dirty deals spanning 20 years. Italy’s Eni and Royal Dutch Shell currently face corruption charges in Italy in their various activities linked to the bid for the rich oil field.

Specifically, the groups allege that recent media reports were veiled attempts to protect oil giants and former public officers associated with the scam by attacking the credibility of the prosecutors in charge of the case in Milan.

It is the position of the groups that ‘having attended the trial, they could attest to the professionalism of the prosecutor, whose probity has never been questioned by the Tribunal or the defendants’ legal teams, which include some of Italy’s top lawyers.

They noted that the trial has stretched over two years and has generated hours of testimony.

The groups said: ‘ThisDay’s article misleadingly focusses on a few minutes in one hearing nearly 18 months ago to allege that the Prosecutor hid key facts relating to Mr Adoke’s mortgage. In fact, the Prosecutor has been entirely candid. Evidence relating to mortgage repayments was included in the Prosecutor’s file submitted to the Court when the trial opened and additional evidence has been filed during the trial.’

They observed that most recently, on 29 October 2019, the Prosecutor submitted extensive documentation received through a Mutual Legal Assistance request to Nigeria.

“It is our understanding that this included (inter alia) full details of money flows into and out of Mr Adoke’s account at Unity Bank, the internal Unity Bank documentation relating to the mortgage and property records relating to Plot no 3271 Cadastral Zone 06, Maitama, Abuja.’

They jointly criticised attempts to rubbish the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), which launched an investigation into the crime.

The coalition said the ThisDay article was published on the same day that a report by British academics found that Nigeria was making good progress in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws adding that the report had praised the EFCC as ‘a robust and effective agency.’

The anti-corruption leaders said it would be a great pity if the EFCC’s hard-earned reputation was undermined by ill-informed opinions adding that pulling down the EFCC to satisfy the interests of a corrupt few will undermine sustainable growth and development in Nigeria.

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