Eniola Akinkuotu and Ade Adesomoju
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has charged oil giants, Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited, ENI SPA and three Italians with fraud in the handling of the OPL 245.
The commission accused the firms of corruptly handing over $801,000,000 to a former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete.
The EFCC also accused oil magnate and Chairman of A. A. Oil, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar; and Etete’s company, Malabu Oil and Gas, of receiving part of the money.
The allegations were contained in a charge sheet filed by an EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, before Federal Capital Territory High Court, marked CR/124/17.
One of the charges reads, “That you, Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited, ENI SPA, Ralph Wetzels (whilst being Director of SNEPCO), Casula Roberto (whilst being a director in Agip), Burrafato Sebastino (while being a director with Agip) sometime in 2011, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, corruptly gave the aggregate sum of $801,000,000 to Dan Etete, Mohammed Bello, Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on account of the grant of Oil Prospecting Licence in respect of OPL 245 and thereby committed an offence.”
The offences, according to the commission, are contrary to Section 9 of the Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission Act, 2000, and punishable under Section 9(b) of the same Act.
The anti-graft agency also listed five witnesses against the accused persons.
The Malabu Oil scandal, which is described as one of the most fraudulent oil deals in the world, involves the $1.1bn paid by oil giants, Shell and Eni, to Federal Government accounts in 2011 for OPL 245, which is said to hold reserves of about 9.23 billion barrels of oil.
The OPL 245 was said to have been bought by Etete under questionable circumstances in 1998 when he was the oil minister.
Etete was said to have bought it for a fraction of its actual value. However, it was revoked by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
During the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the then AGF, Adoke, brokered a deal for the sale of the OPL 245, acting as a middleman between Shell and Eni on the one hand, and Etete’s company, Malabu, on the other hand.
Shell and Eni were said to have paid about $1.3bn for the OPL 245, which was paid into two escrow accounts owned by the Federal Government.
However, Adoke was said to have transferred over $800m to Etete, who, in turn, transferred over $500m to Aliyu, Jonathan’s alleged front.
Although Jonathan, Adoke and Etete have all denied the allegations, insisting that it was an honest transaction, prosecutors in the UK insist that $523m of Shell and Eni’s payment went to alleged “fronts for former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria” as part of a deal that was effectively a “smash and grab” on Nigeria.
The UK authorities have since frozen $85m in Etete’s bank account while $170m was frozen in his Switzerland account.
Justice Edis of the Southwark Crown Court in London had last year, described the Malabu scandal as questionable, accusing Jonathan of not doing enough to protect the interest of Nigeria.
The OPL 245 has been temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.