Anti-corruption group, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre), has given a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, 14 days to retract his “defamatory statement” against the group or face court action.
In a petition by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraj, the group stated that Adoke attempted to destroy the reputation of the anti-graft group through a string of lies aimed at diverting public attention from gross allegations of corruption that surrounded the OPL 245 oil deals.
“Defamation is being employed as a tool to shift the public debate from a clear case of corruption involving Nigerian politicians and their collaborators. The case of forgery of emails made by Adoke and his group is a cheap act of defamation that HEDA will vigorously challenge,” Suraju wrote in the petition addressed to Adoke’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi.
Hundreds of groups and individuals have risen in defence of HEDA at home and abroad for the group’s consistent outcry against corruption.
The letter to Agabi titled ‘Defamation of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and Suraju,’ said Adoke’s petition titled “Forgery of Documents for Purposes of Unlawful Interference with the Course of Justice” widely reported by media houses was entirely untrue, highly defamatory and misleading to the law enforcement agency.
HEDA said it was wrongly accused by Adoke of criminal acts such as forgery and falsification of evidence, “accusations that are highly damaging to the reputation of HEDA as a respected anti-corruption group in Nigeria and abroad”.
HEDA asked Adoke to issue a full retraction of the defamatory statements made against the group and its chairman at the earliest possible date.
“If within 14 days of the receipt of the letter, no retraction has been made, we will initiate legal action against Mr Adoke SAN and his agents,” Suraju said.
He said the group reserves the right to bring proceedings in Nigeria or any other jurisdiction where damage has been caused.
“We are currently assessing the extent of the damage to our reputation caused by internet publication of the petition in Nigeria. Given the wide readership of Nigerian newspapers which reported the petition online across the world, we believe that many readers will have read the defamations. Our actions towards the remedy of the damages will depend on the speed and nature of your response,” the anti-corruption group said.
Adoke’s petition had demanded an investigation into what was alleged to be various acts of forgery by “the parties responsible for the petition, investigations and commencement of the criminal trial at the court of Milan against the individuals/entities connected with the OPL 245 settlement agreement”.
The petition also states that “the persons or organisations behind these forgeries are the ones that authored the petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), demanding the investigation of the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement”.
But reacting, HEDA stated: “Your client, Bello Adoke further appeared before the Inspector General of Police’s Monitoring Unit to adopt this petition and specifically mentioned the names of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju as a suspect referenced in your letter.
“HEDA has authored over 500 complaints to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau and other international law enforcement agencies on cases similar to that involving your clients, resulting in investigations, prosecution and convictions of those affected. The OPL245 is one of these several complaints and never was the organization accused of bias or misleading the law enforcement agencies in any of these complaints.”