Nigeria’s anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has debunked a media report claiming the group’s Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, was indicted by the police over a ’forged’ email and phone tape.
On Tuesday, an online medium had reported that the HEDA Chairman was indicted of falsehood in the probe of an allegation that an e-mail and phone conversation attributed to Mohammed Bello Adoke, a former attorney-general of the federation, was forged.
Reacting in a statement on Wednesday, HEDA Executive Secretary, Suleiman Arigbabu, said the report by the news medium claiming that the police had indicted Suraju based on a ‘report’ by the IGP Monitoring Unit, was untrue.
HEDA said the reports might have been sponsored by a former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etiebet, and former Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke.
Recall that both had hired a lawyer to petition HEDA based on the group’s widespread campaign and litigation aimed at bringing crime suspects to book at courts in Milan, Italy.
HEDA said the intention of the sponsors of the fake report was to distract attention from an investigation already receiving the attention of the IGP Monitoring Unit, the Interpol and Cybercrimes unit of the police.
HEDA said two journalists called Suraju to get his reaction to the purported police report and claimed to have received a certified true copy of same.
The group said Suraju declined to give any comment since he was unaware of such a report.
The statement from HEDA reads, “For an average discerning mind and professional reporter, it is basic reasoning to detect this report is fallacious, unprofessional, distractive and poorly concocted by its producers.”
Arigbabu advised journalists to take up the fight against corruption as one of their core responsibilities.
HEDA said the Police IGP Monitoring Unit had invited Suraju, in his capacity as Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre on 27th March 2021, based on a petition by a lawyer, Kanu Agabi, on behalf of Bello Adoke (SAN). The petition was titled, “Forgery of Document for Unlawful Purposes of Interference with the Course of Justice”.
It said though the name of HEDA Resource Centre or Suraju was not mentioned in the petition, the invitation was received by the organization in good faith and as an opportunity to assist the police in its investigation.
It said contrary to the claims of non-appearance as contained in the report, Suraju was officially invited and visited the IGP Monitoring Unit, and made statements six times between April 1st and today, with the last visit being Friday 27th August 2021.
“On each of these occasions, he bore the cost of flights, taxis and hotels for his trip. The first visit, wherein Suraju was detained and eventually released on bail, is in the public domain.
“It is important, as a reminder to the public, that the subject of the petition was the forgery of an email in which Nigeria, as a sovereign state, was shortchanged to the tune of $1.1billion (one hundred and one billion US dollars). HEDA and its international partners have been involved in the advocacy for recovery of this money and prosecution of principal actors behind the heist,” the group said.
The group said this advocacy had helped Nigeria recover $75m of this money. The processes for the recovery of the balance are subjects of judicial processes in both the United Kingdom and Italy.
“Every other fabrication of ‘cyberstalking, giving false information to mislead public officer, injurious falsehood and criminal defamation with intent to incite’ can only exist in the imagination of the purveyor of the fake report and their collaborators in and out of government,” Arigbabu said.
HEDA said its legal status could be confirmed through the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).