A former Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), yesterday said he knew nothing about how an Escrow Account was opened and $32.5 million fines from Halliburton Energy Services paid into it.
He 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 National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) former Executive Secretary.
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).
Adoke, who spoke exclusively with The Nation on the telephone, said he did his best for the nation
He 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.
The reaction of the ex-Minister followed indications that EFCC was looking into the roles played by two former National Security Advisers, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and the late Owoye Azazi, and two former Attorneys-General of the Federation on the facilitation of $200million Settlement Agreement with Halliburton and four others.
The past AGFs are Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (SAN) and Adoke (SAN), who have claimed that they never benefitted from the agreement in any manner whatsoever.
The anti-graft agency has however retrieved a copy of the agreement signed with a U.S. law firm, Madison Avenue Legal Resources LLP from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Aondoakaa, who initiated the pact.
It was also learnt that the EFCC has traced the Escrow Account to Madison Escrow Services LLC (the “Escrow Agent”) at the instance of Ewubare, who went to the United States to get the document.
About $32.5million (N13, 585,000, 000) out of about $200million fines from Halliburton Energy Services was allegedly paid into the Escrow Account.
Ewubare was said to have submitted a document to the anti-graft agency, showing how the Escrow agent was engaged by the FGN, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, to save the nation about $540million from garnishee judgments.
The document showed that the total compensation received by the Escrow Agent for its services was $2.5million.
But the EFCC is probing why the N13.5 billion was not remitted into the Federation Account in accordance with extant laws.
Those interrogated by the EFCC on the matter are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, J.B Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C Ukala (SAN), Obla (SAN), D.D. Dodo (SAN) and Ewubare.