SPECIAL REPORT…THE MALABU CHRONICLES: Inside Nigeria’s dirty oil wars and the missing questions
It was a sweltering Wednesday afternoon when my telephone line rang, mid May. I took no special heed as I was just settling down to work, having waded through the usual heavy Lagos traffic to arrive my Ikoyi office. I had ignored the calls initially, choosing instead to ease myself, first, into the slightly more comfortable environment. I peered lazily at the phone when it buzzed a third time without revealing a caller ID.
I thought to my self when the phone rang a fourth time that the desperate caller, whoever he or she was, was damn serious to reach his target.
“Hello, this is Sam.”
“Good day, Sam. I am glad I finally got across to you.”
“Thanks, may I know who is speaking?”
“That wouldn’t matter, I’m sorry, but I’ve got a story that might interest your platform.”
He spoke with a sense of urgency, and an accent that gave him away as one who probably had had a great Western influence. The instinct of a typical newshound took over me, as I sank into the sofa and pressed the phone closer to my ear.
“Can we meet?”, he asked.
“If it is for a good cause, why not?” I said.
“Alright then. I’d get back with you.”
Subsequent conversations took place and we eventually set up a meeting somewhere in the heart of Lagos. It turned out that the celebrated Malabu oil deal was going to be at the core of our conversation, and it had us digging into Nigeria’s troubled oil industry for over six hours.
The Malabu Chronicles attempts a further revelation of contending claims, a few hidden facts, acts of impunity, wanton brigandage and official abuse of power within the tiny but powerful Nigerian ruling class.
OPL 245 is Malabu!
Pleasantries over, my host poured himself a glass of red wine, and helped me with same. He then took a sip and began to speak slowly. A heap of some spiral-bound documents sat on the table as he motioned me to take a listen.
“Malabu Oil and Gas is the other name for OPL 245. It remains, perhaps, the most talked-about asset in Nigeria’s oil industry. It covers 1958 square kilometers and holds over 9 billion barrels of crude oil, equivalent to nearly one quarter of Nigeria’s total proven reserves. Experts even claim that the deposit can power the whole of Africa for twenty years!
“Issues around OPL 245 have dominated Nigeria’s political and business space for nearly twenty years. The oil bloc became famous for its market value which is currently estimated at over $5billion, positioning it as Africa’s richest oil bloc. But, matched against this street worth is the notoriety it had acquired arising from the intricate and bitter wars over its control,” he said.
‘Mohammed betraying family greed’
“It’s a shame how much damage the in-fighting has done to our international reputation,” I interjected.
“That is correct. Nigeria’s one-time military president and dictator, late General Sani Abacha, literally pulled the first trigger in April 1998 when he, acting under a so-called ‘discretionary power,’ gifted Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd the right to prospect the very rich oil field. The offer was conveyed through the office of the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete. It has been alleged that the bespectacled former Head of State, who died in controversial circumstances, basically dished out mouth-watering business opportunities to self and cronies using many fronts.
“Abacha’s son, Mohammed, practically betrayed family greed, and his father’s excesses, when he emerged from the shadows to institute a civil suit (suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/206/2017) at an Abuja High Court in March 2017, claiming 70% ownership of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. The family’s interest, until then, had been subject of quiet gossip.
“The Federal Government and the Minister of Petroleum Resources were joined as the first and second defendants. Others joined as the third to the seventh defendant were Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited (SNUD), Shell NEPCL, Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Limited, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete,” he said.
“That name, Etete!
“His image looms large in the entire Malabu Oil saga. It is reported that he owns the company.
“How come?” I queried.
“You know, the matter is already before the courts, and one has to be careful with comments, lest we act in contravention of the courts.
“I’ve got a copy of the suit filed by Abacha’s son. Seen it yet?”
He handed me a bunch of some carefully-bound papers to flip through. I found the following:
The Abacha claims
In a joint statement of claims, Mohammed averred “that the issued share capital upon incorporation of Malabu Oil was N20 million divided into 20 million ordinary shares with a nominal value of N1 each and the equity of the oil company shared amongst its initial subscribers and their respective holding was as follows: Mohammed Sani – 10m shares (50%); Kweku Amafegha – 6m shares (30%) and Hassan Hindu – 4m shares (20%)”.
Alleging that there had been fraudulent attempts to divest his interests in the company, he claimed, “that the first to the third defendants and their cronies fraudulently altered the shareholding structure in the equity of the first plaintiff in the years 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2010 without the authorisation, consent and knowledge of the second and third defendants”.
He further claimed, “that the sum of $1,092,000,000.00 was paid into a Federal Republic of Nigeria domiciliary escrow Account No. 41454193 domiciled in JP Morgan Chase Co. London to be passed to Malabu Oil and Gas as consideration for the surrender of its asset (OPL 245), which was frittered away by Amafagha, Seidougha and Chief Dan Etete, and that Malabu Oil did not benefit a dime from the transaction.”
Mohammed, therefore, asked the court to make the following declarations:
“A declaration that the second and third plaintiffs (himself and Pecos Energy Limited) jointly hold seventy per cent equity shareholding in the first plaintiff (Malabu Oil)”.
“A declaration that the second and third plaintiffs have never divested their respective shares in the first plaintiff and continue to be shareholders and directors of the first plaintiff”.
“A declaration that all the resolutions passed by the purported directors of the first plaintiff (Malabu Oil and Gas Limited) and all alterations made to the first plaintiff’s document in its original file at the fourth defendant’s office (CAC) which affected and changed the shareholding structure of the first plaintiff from 1998 to 2010 were unauthorised, illegal, null, void and of no effect.”
“A declaration that forms CAC 2 and 7 (Statement of Share Capital and Return of Allotment of Shares) dated 9th June, 2010 prepared and filed by one Ayo Ademola purporting to transfer the second plaintiff’s 10,000,000 shares in the equity of the first plaintiff to one Seidougha Munamuna (second defendant), 6,000,000 shares of one Kweku Amafagha (first defendant) to Amaran Joseph (third defendant), and Hassan Hindu’s 4,000,000 shares to the same Amaran Joseph is illegal, null and void, same having been prepared and filled are without the consent, knowledge and authority of the second and third plaintiffs”.
“A declaration that the resolution dated 9th June, 2010 purporting to validate the three (3) Shares Transfer Agreements of the same date, 9th June, 2010 purportedly transferring the shares of the second plaintiff to Seidougha Munamuna (second defendant), the shares of Kweku Amafagha (first defendant) and Hassan Hindu to Joseph Amaran (third defendant) are all null and void, not having been authorised by the second and third plaintiffs.”
“A declaration that the purported surrender of Malabu Oil’s title, rights and interest in OPL 245 to the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Malabu Settlement Agreement dated 29th April, 2011, whereby the oil company allegedly relinquished all claims to OPL 245 and agreed to all future actions which the Federal Government of Nigeria may take with respect to OPL 245 is null and void, adding that the said surrender having been carried out on behalf of the first plaintiff by persons who had no authority to so act.”
“A declaration that the subsequent purported allocation of Malabu Oil’s titles, rights and interest in OPL 245 to a consortium of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (fifth defendant) and Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited (sixth defendant) under a resolution agreement dated 30th April, 2011 is null and void, same having been predicated on the unauthorised surrender of the first plaintiff’s interest in same.”
Not done, he sought the following reliefs:
“An order setting aside all other subsequent purported resolution agreements made between the Federal Government of Nigeria, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (fifth defendant), Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (sixth defendant) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), predicated on the Malabu Settlement Agreements transferring the first plaintiff’s interest in OPL 245 to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (fifth defendant) and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (sixth defendant).
“An order setting aside the letter dated 11th May, 2011 with reference no: HMPR/07/01 addressed to the Managing Director of the sixth defendant titled RE: OPL245 Resolution Agreement/Letter of Award signed by the then Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison Madueke to grant approval for the said award of OPL 245 jointly to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (fifth defendant) and Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited (sixth defendant).”
The final relief sought was, “A declaration that Malabu Oil is the holder and continues to hold all the titles, rights and interests in OPL 245.”
“Done digesting the documents?”
“Yes,” I said.
The Etete myth
“The courts do have a huge task to perform given the mountain of claims stacked before them. But then there are few facts which the public continues to ignore,” he said.
“Available records do not capture Dan Etete as a shareholder in Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. He has never claimed to be one. Allegations that he controls 30% or owns the company 100% through Messrs Seidougha Munamuna, Kweku Amafagha and Amaran Joseph remain what they are, mere allegations for the courts to adjudicate on.
“The other established fact is that Dan Etete is only but a Consultant to Malabu Oil and Gas, a role he accepted to play in 1999, a year after exiting office as Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“Much of what has been attributed to him are borne of mischief.
“It’s interesting to note that the Nigeria government itself has challenged the Abacha suit,” he concluded.
Again, my host shuffled the documents on the table before him and reminded me that the strategic move by Abacha derived from a January 26, 2017 order of interim forfeiture of OPL 245 granted by Justice John Tsoho on an exparte motion brought by EFCC.
“See what the FG is saying in response to Abacha.”
The battle of wits
I ran through the pack, devouring each line with the greatest concentration I could muster. The Nigerian government objections to Mohammed Abacha were filed on May 17, 2017.
It challenged the competence of Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/201/2017. In doing so, the Federal Government and the Minister of Petroleum Resources argued through their lead counsel, Mr. Tijani Gazali, that the “Block 245 Resolution Agreement and other related mutual resolution agreements dated April 29, 2011”, had removed any huddles that may have obstructed the re-allocation of OPL 245 to Shell and Agip on May 11, 2011.
The affidavit deposed to by Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation in support of the Federal Government’s preliminary objection, stated as follows:
“Plaintiff (Malabu) was initially allocated OPL 245 via a letter, dated April 29, 1998, but same was later revoked via letter, dated July 2, 2001.
“However, upon settlement agreement, dated November 30, 2006, OPL 245 was re-allocated to plaintiff (Malabu) via a letter, dated July 2, 2010.
“Upon the execution of Block 245 Resolution Agreement and other related mutual Resolution Agreements, dated April 29, 2011, plaintiff relinquished its rights/interests in OPL 245, which paved the way for its allocation to the fourth and fifth defendants via a letter, dated May 11, 2011.
“Plaintiff is now challenging the allocation of OPL 245 to the fourth and fifth defendants via second defendant’s (Minister of Petroleum Resources) letter dated May 11, 2011.
“That the allocations referred to in paragraphs above were based on mutual agreements reached by the parties thereto.”
Puncturing more holes in the Abacha suit, the Nigerian government argued that there were still doubts over Mohammed Abacha’s claim that he had verifiable stake in Malabu, and by extension, in OPL 245.
It attributed its stance to a sister suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/206/2017 (Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and two others vs Mr. Kweku Amafagha and nine others) “where Mohammed Sani Abacha, who is the plaintiff’s witness herein, and others are seeking to establish ownership and control over Malabu Oil and Gas”.
“The claims of membership/ownership of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited by Mohammed Sani Abacha, Oyewole Fasawe, Pecos Energy Limited and others, Federal Government argued, will depend on the outcome of the pending suit which will determine the existence of any legal rights in favour of Mohammed Abacha, Oyewole Fasawe, Kweku Amafagha, Muhamuna Seidougha, Dan Etete or any other person or entity laying claim to having any interest in the plaintiff/applicant and by extension OPL 245.”
“This looks all muddled up.
“Do you, per chance, have any idea where this intricate web of legal cases will take the nation?” I inquired.
“The wheel of justice grinds slowly. Not sure how soon this would end but I am convinced the outcomes would help strengthen our institutions and, perhaps, engender more transparency in Nigeria’s oil industry.
“I smell politics though. My view is that the Abacha lad is desperate and taking full advantage of a network of collaborators in government to stir the legal space for selfish gains.
“The presiding Judge, Justice John Tsoho, has fixed sometime in June, 2018 to hear the preliminary objection filed to abort Abacha’s bid to reclaim OPL 245, promising to consolidate every other objection against the suit and hear them together.
“We wait to see how it all plays out,” he volunteered.
Serial bungling mess
“At the moment, the intrigues and opaqueness that rule the industry are overwhelming. Who would believe that a government that serially bungled what appeared a simple, straight forward transaction would return to insinuate and make a case for criminality against Malabu Oil?”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“I’m referring to the case wherein the Nigerian government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, is seeking to declare that a certain sum of $.8billion remitted into the accounts of Malabu were proceeds of crime?” he said.
“You need to know the specifics.
“The case was filed before a High Court in Abuja on December 20, 2016.
“Take a look.”
He handed me a couple of sheets of paper and I began to feast on them. The documents showed that the EFCC had filed seven charges bordering on alleged mismanagement of oil proceeds against a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Dan Etete.
Charged alongside Adoke and Etete were Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Imperial Union Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Group Construction Limited and Megatech Engineering Limited.
The charges read in full:
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on or about 24th August 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court directly or indirectly took control of the sum of $400 million only paid from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account No. 41451493 IBAN 30CHAS699242411492 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited domiciled in PHB PLC (now Keystone Bank) Account No. 1005552028 when you knew that the funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on or about the 10th August 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court directly or indirectly took control of the sum of $401 million only paid from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account No. 41451493 IBAN GB 30CHAS699242411492 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited domiciled in First Bank Nigeria Plc in Account No. 2011828805 when you knew that the funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and ounishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on or about the 10th August 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court converted the sum of $400m only which sum was transferred from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account No. 41451493 IBAN GB 30CHAS609242411493 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited domiciled in Bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank) Account No. 1005552028 which you claimed was received as payment for Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL 245) when you knew that the funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on or about the 10th August 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court directly or indirectly converted the sum of $401,540,000 ($401.540m) only which sum was transferred from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account No. 41451493 IBAN GB 30CHAS609242411493 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited domiciled in Bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank) Account No. 1005552028 which you purportedly claimed was received as payment for Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL 245) when you knew that the funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
“That you, Aliyu Abubakar, Rocky Top Resources Limited, sometime in 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did retain the sum of $336,456,906.78 only in Bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank) Account No. 100555202 belonging to Rocky Top Resources Limited when you reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Dan Etete and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited to wit: Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited sometime in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court having reason to know that the aggregate sum of $801,540,000 only directly represent the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited to wit, fraud in respect of the said amount used the said funds and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
“That you, Dauzia Loya Etete (aka Dan Etete) and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and Mohammed Adoke Bello (SAN) sometime in 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired among yourselves to commit money laundering offences contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
“Interesting,” I quipped as I made to lay down the document I had just devoured.
“It’s a shame the Nigerian government has chosen to lace an international business transaction with dirty politics, and frittering scarce public resources in the process.
“Did you notice how Justice Binta Nyako of Abuja High Court threw out FG’s objections and set former AGF Adoke free in suit FHC/ABJ/94/446/2017 which he filed against the incumbent AGF (Malami), asking to be freed from any criminal liability in respect of the Malabu transactions?
“That is what you get when politicians play to the gallery.
“There’s a constant pursuit of very selfish interests.
“We make ourselves a laughing stock when we fail to play by the rules that govern international business,” he rapped.
“The other leg of the case involving Malabu and its Consultant, Etete, is bound to generate even more interesting conversations in the days and months ahead,” he added.
“You are pretty sure, it would?”
“Yes, the reasons are obvious.
“Let’s examine the merits of the case which many choose conveniently to ignore.”
The missing questions
“The Malabu chronicle is a festering sore,” he began.
“A major twist in the turns was the revocation in 2001, by General Olusegun Obasanjo, of the approval granted Malabu Oil and Gas to explore OPL 245.
“The rest of the puzzle can be solved by finding answers to some salient questions.”
He drew his wine glass closer, helped himself with some fresh serving, as he reeled out posers bordering on Obasanjo’s infamous role in the Malabu saga.
“Who was the boss in July, 2001 when OPL 245, approved by late General Abacha, was revoked and ownership restored to the Nigerian government?
“Under whose watchful eyes in 2002 did Nigeria re-award OPL 245 to Shell?
“Who created bad blood between two former partners (Malabu and Shell ) knowing that by 2000 Shell had acquired 40 per percent equity in Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL, 245?
“Who, by virtue of his leadership of the Petroleum Ministry, did not know that Shell and Malabu had in January, 2001 peacefully resolved their legal disagreements and executed a Heads of Agreement (“HoA”) which set forth the major principles of agreement between Shell and Malabu regarding OPL 245?
“Under whose administration did Nigerian lawmakers advise that Malibu’s right of ownership of OPL 245 be restored?
“In 2006, who was Nigeria’s maximum ruler when, after a series of negotiations, the Malabu Resolution Agreements, which, on the one hand, settled all claims to the OPL 245 between the Nigerian government and Malabu Oil and Gas for a consideration of $1.1 billion, and on the other hand, an agreement between the oil majors – SNEPCO, SNUD, ENI, NNPC and the Federal Government accepting the OPL 245 for a consideration of $1.1 billion to be paid to Malabu?
“Who were the forces behind Otunba Oyewole Fasawe and Pecos Energy Limited, and how did they unsuccessfully push their way into Malabu Oil and Gas? And,
“Who flew a kite suggesting that the Malabu bloc contained over 9 billion barrels of crude oil at transaction point, knowing that the basis of settlement with technical partners, Shell and ENI was a valuation that only took into account the reserves as being 1.5 billion barrels?”
“This is like pre-empting outcomes of the criminal case,” I said.
“Not exactly, but facts are sacred,” he replied.
Picking up a sheet of paper, he laid it before me. It contained a few jottings highlighting aspects of the Resolution Agreements which were eventually executed in 2011 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. It read:
“That Malabu will waive all interests and rights in OPL 245 and agree that it should be re-allocated to another entity.
That Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep (SNUD) agrees that its interest be re- allocated to SNEPCo, who will re-imburse SNUD all costs incurred so far and $335,600,000 incurred by SNUD under the PSC with NNPC in 2003.
* That the Nigerian government will now re-allocate OPL 245 to SNEPCo and NAE
That the fresh OPL will be for 10 years and when oil production starts, it will be converted to an oil mining lease (OML)
That with the re-allocation, Shell will pay a signature bonus to FGN as determined in the Resolution Agreement.
That the re-allocation of OPL 245 will effectively terminate the 2003 PSC between SNUD and NNPC, and the $207,960,000 deposited in an Escrow account by SDPC will be paid to FGN as signature bonus for the re-allocation of OPL 245 to SNEPCo and NAE.
That an Escrow account will be opened in the names of FGN and Malabu at JP Morgan.
That NAE will pay an agreed sum to the account — the bulk to be transferred by FGN to Malabu as its pay-off for giving up OPL 245 and a fraction as additional bonus to FGN.
That once deal is concluded, NAE and SNEPCo will execute the PSC for OPL 245.
All pending suits, and arbitration, will be withdrawn by all parties.
“These facts are in public domain,” he stressed, adding, “A core issue in the Resolution Agreements is that it will be the role of the Nigerian government to take the money paid for the license by Shell and ENI and transfer it to Malabu Oil and Gas.”
War here! War everywhere!!
“But there seems to be war everywhere over Malabu.”
“No, you get it wrong.”
“So, what do you make of the outstanding battles in UK and Italy?”
“They are essentially legal battles, and not uncommon in business circles.”
“You fail to appreciate that it is still the Nigerian government chasing after Malabu.”
“I do appreciate, but these remain allegations until proven.”
Adjusting his chair, he moved to rationalize the various outstanding legal cases.
“The case in the UK is between Malabu and a party (Emeka Obi of EVP) suing for fees and the UK courts insist that the sums in dispute be paid into the courts pending the outcome of the matter.
“The money in question was paid at the same time the initial settlement sums were paid to Malabu.
“About $110.5 million was transferred to a Swiss account after Obi won his case against Malabu, while $85 million remained stuck in the UK, following a court ruling.
“It was in a bid to retrieve the $85 million that the Federal Government filed its suit at the High Court of Justice, Admiralty and Commercial Court in the UK in October 2016.
“Through the British courts, Nigeria is claiming that JP Morgan’s transfer of over $800 million to accounts allegedly controlled by Dan Etete from its account was done in contravention of Nigerian laws.
“Nigeria is suing JP Morgan for $875m (£660m),” he said.
“Again, it’s risky to jump into these issues because they are subjudice.
“However, JP Morgan is fighting back.
“JP Morgan has said it “owed no duty of any kind” to the Nigerian government.
“It will be interesting to see how the case proceeds at the courts,” he added.
“And the case in Italy?” I probed.
“It can’t get more exciting.
“Global Witness, a group of anti-corruption activists claims it knows everything that has gone on with the Malabu deal.
“Italian prosecutors, on their part, allege bribes were paid to win the license to explore OPL 245.
“The Chief Executive Officer of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, and former Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded, are standing trial along with 11 other defendants and the two companies,” he responded.
“The world, indeed, must be watching.” I said.
“Especially so, because the leadership of both ENI and Shell have denied any wrong doing by their helmsmen.
“The Italian court based in Milan has fixed June 20, 2018 for hearing.”
“An interesting war on all fronts,” he said, giggling.
“Thanks for the lead, sir,” I replied.
“It’s been a pleasure.
“We hope that media trials of suspects would stop.
“This country must be built on equity and justice for it to stand.
“We must take this chance,” he said.
“Thank you very much.”
We poured ourselves the last stock of drinks, shook hands and waved bye.
A festering sore
Nigeria’s oil industry is sick. Whether it will get better remains a matter of conjecture.
The institutional framework required to keep the system running efficiently and effectively is weak or, at best, non-existent. The biggest attempt at creating an enduring structure via the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has been in the works since 2003.
The National Assembly says it awaits President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent, having been passed by both houses on March 28, 2018.
However, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, said recently, that President Muhammadu Buhari had yet to receive a copy of the Bill as passed by the National Assembly, raising further posers about the state of the bill.
At the moment, the President remains all too powerful, clutching the portfolio of Minister of Petroleum, in addition to being Head of State, like in the days of late Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) continues to report that the system remains very opaque with leakages still prevalent in terms of revenue losses to the country.
Signs of instability reign supreme even as activists push for transparency, and marginalized communities play the ethnic card in their search for equity and justice.
Will the recent push by rights group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, for a revocation of OPL 245 open up another window in the complex battle for Africa’s most profitable oil bloc or serve as an extension of the dirty local politics that has been played in the last twenty years?
Or, will the threat by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, an influential pressure group in the Niger Delta, to shut down all oil wells in the region in defense of their son, Etete, perceived to be undergoing persecution, help resolve the saga?
The world awaits.
By Sam Ibemere….
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