Foreign Advocacy Groups Petition Police IG Over Report Indicting HEDA Chairman

Yemisi Izuora

Prominent international groups involved in anti-corruption efforts globally have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali, on the purported report from a Force unit indicting the chairman of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDAResource Centre), Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, of peddling falsehood against a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.

Former minister Adoke, one of those accused of fraud in the OPL 245 scam, also referred to as Malabu scandal, had petitioned the police, accusing Suraj and HEDA of circulating fabricated evidence against him to unduly incriminate him in the multi-million dollars scandal.

The subject of Adoke’s petition was 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) and HEDA and its international partners have been involved in the advocacy for recovery of this money and prosecution of principal actors behind the heist.

In a letter delivered by hand and email to the Force Headquarters, the foreign non-governmental groups, Re:Common and The Corner House, stated that the source of the press reports of concern that originated from an article, published online on 7 September 2021, in The Cable with the headline Police indict Lanre Suraju — after probing Adoke’s petition on ‘forged’ email, phone tape, must be clarified by the police boss since investigation into the complain is still ongoing.

The petition, titled, ‘RE: False Complaint by Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN – further concerns and request for additional investigations’, was signed by Luca Manes, Executive Director, Re:Common and Nicholas Hildyard, Co-Director, The Corner House.

In the purported two-page report said to have emanated from the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Unit, it was alleged that Suraj circulated false information about Adoke via his organisation’s social media accounts without verifying its authenticity.

The police report also alleged Suraju’s organisation, HEDA, was unregistered, a claim this newspaper found to be false after carrying out checks on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“Further to our letter to your predecessor of 1 March 2021 (“False Complaint by Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN”), a copy of which is attached for ease of reference, we write to express our grave concerns about press reports that Mr Suraju has been indicted by the IGP Monitoring Unit as a consequence of its investigations of Mr Adoke’s complaint.”

Expressing its concerns, the international groups said, “We have seen the “police report” that is referenced by The Cable and which is asserted to have been written by the IGP monitoring unit. However, we have sufficient knowledge of the case to suspect that it has in all probability been faked.

“The so-called “police report” contains numerous factual errors which are strongly indicative that it was not written by the police officers who have investigated Mr Adoke’s original allegations.”

Parts of the gray areas in the report raised by the groups include, “It is asserted that the police monitoring unit found that HEDA Resource Centre is unregistered.  In fact, the officers, in the presence of Mr Suraju, conducted a search of the Corporate Affairs Commission’s website, which confirmed that HEDA Resource Centre is a registered organisation.

“It is inconceivable that the IGP Monitoring Unit would therefore have asserted that the organisation is unregistered, as reported by The Cable. Indeed, such an assertion is a gross calumny on the competence of your officers. We ourselves have checked the CAC registry and attach a screenshot of the registry entry: the registration number is IT-16485.

“The so-called “police report” is quoted as saying that Mr Suraju “jumped bail” and “resorted to issuing press statements maligning the Police”. In fact, Mr Suraju has scrupulously, dutifully and voluntarily responded to all invitations by the monitoring unit, providing six statements since 1 April 2021.

“Copies of these statements with dates are contained in the case file and his visits to the Force headquarters documented in the attendance register at the gate. At no time has he or his associates ever issued a press release maligning the police in relation to the investigation. Again, this was known to your officers: we are confident that, as professionals, they would not therefore have made the statements that The report attributes to them.”

The bodies also queried the report that Mr Suraju is also said to have issued “frivolous counter petitions”, stressing that the HEDA chaiman has at every occasion sought to assist the police investigation into Adoke’s original petition by providing the police with publicly-available documentation (originating from the trial of Eni, Shell and others in Milan) that throws possible light on the origins of the allegedly forged email that Adoke complained of.

“The documents strongly suggest that cybercrimes were committed: and Mr Suraju, together with Re:Common and Corner House, have therefore petitioned the police to investigate (a copy of the petition is attached). Far from being “frivolous”, the petition has triggered an investigation by both the police Cybercrimes Unit and Interpol based on your assigning the counter petition to your DIG FCIID. This too was known to your officers: again, we are confident that they would not therefore have described the counter petition as “frivolous”, knowing that colleagues in other units were investigating and previously requested for the transfer of file from your disbanded IGP unit to the FCIID.

“The police report is said by The Cable to have been addressed to Mr Adoke. As we understand it, police procedures would have required that the report should have been sent to you as Inspector General of Police, since Adoke’s lawyer addressed his original petition to your office. We are confident that the Monitoring Unit would have been fully aware of the correct procedures and would not have attempted to circumvent you by writing directly to Mr Adoke.

“We are informed that, after being rung by The Cable prior to its publication of the article, Mr Suraju has reached out to the IGP Monitoring Unit, where it was confirmed that the unit had not issued any report of its investigation.”

Making its final points of demands, the groups said, “We therefore conclude that it is highly likely that the “police report” is fake and that whoever was behind The Cable article and the report is attempting to derail the ongoing police investigation into the source of the alleged forged email. We believe that immediate action is therefore needed to:

“Clarify that the investigations into Mr Adoke’s complaint is still in progress.

“Confirm that the Police have not issued a “police report” on the investigations as purportedly claimed against the IGP Monitoring Unit.

“Conduct forensic analysis and internal investigation of a copy of the so-called “police report” referenced by The Cable and investigate who was responsible for its authorship and publication.

“Prosecute anyone who has sought to pervert the course of justice through seeking to derail the investigations. “

Recall that when contacted, Suraju told TheCable that he is not aware of the report from the IGP monitoring unit.

The HEDA chairman described the police report as “fake”, saying the monitoring team is still conducting its investigation.

“I have not seen the report. I am just hearing it for the first time and I don’t know where it is originating from.

“I was still with the IGP monitoring unit two weeks ago and the unit is still conducting its investigation. I am completely unaware of that so-called report,” he said.

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