The January 26, 2017 court orders granting temporary control of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to the Federal Government of Nigeria following application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), may not go unchallenged.
The challenge of the orders by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, two multi-national companies involved in the Malabu Oil deal, will be heard by the court on February 27.
Shell and Agip had filed applications seeking the vacation of both orders, arguing that the court was misled into granting the order.
When the case was called Tuesday before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, lawyers to Shell and Agip – Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN) and Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN) – informed the court about their pending applications.
Lawyer to the EFCC, Jonson Ojoggbane confirmed that both applications were served on him, but that he was yet to respond to them. He sought a short adjournment to enable him address the applications and put forward the EFCC’s position to enable the court reach a just conclusion.
Although Ajayi and Fagbohunlu agreed to come back next week, the judge informed parties about his official engagement next week outside the country. He adjourned to February 27 for hearing of the applications.
The proceedings were witnessed by some individuals linked to the Malabu deal, including son of the late general Sani Abacha, Mohammed, businessman, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, among others.
The order, obtained ex-parte by the EFCC, among others, allows the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to manage the OPL 245 on behalf of the Fed Government, pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of “SNEPCO, Agip and other individuals named in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering,” contained in some charges already filed in court.
The orders granted are that:
*An interim order attaching the property known as Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and other individuals named in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.
*An interim order directing that the property known as OPL 245 be managed by the Department of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and other individuals named in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.
The EFCC had, while applying for the order, gave detailed explanation of the alleged role played by Shell and Agip in the Malabu Oil deal, through which some highly placed Nigerians, including ex-Ministers and multinational oil companies purportedly defrauded the country of billions of dollars.
The commission also revealed how former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke allegedly aided the payment of $1.2b to ex-Petroleum Resources Minister, Dan Etete, using his position in the President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
EFCC stated, in a supporting affidavit, that: “Sometime in April 1998, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited was incorporated in Nigeria with shareholders namely: Mohammed Sani (fronting for the late General Sani Abacha), Kwekwu Amafegha (representing Dan Etete, the then Minister of Petroleum Resources) and Hassan Hindu (on behalf of Ambassador Hassan Adamu.
“In April 1998 the company was incorporated, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources offered the company deep water oil block prospecting licence in respect of Oil OPL 245 in line with the Federal Government’s indigenous policy in the upstream sector.
“The oil prospecting licence, against all known government’s regulations, was awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas even before a formal application was submitted by the company.
“In June 1998 Gen Sani Abacha died and between 1999 and 2000 the corporate status and shareholding structure were altered severally through forged resolutions, which eventually divested Mohammed Sani of their shares, while new shareholders and directors were appointed fraudulently.
“At the time the company, namely Malaya Oil and Gas Ltd was incorporated, Gen Sani Abacha and Dan Etete were Head of State and Minister of Petroleum Resources, while Hassan Adamu was Nigerian Ambassador to the United State of America between 1996 and 1999,” the EFCC said.
It added that as at when they incorporated Malabu Oil, Gen Sani Abacha, Dan Etete and Hassan Adamu were barred by extant laws from engaging in any form of business by virtue of their offices.
“They used their positions to confer unfair advantage on themselves and cronies in allocating OPL 245 to themselves without due process. The company contracted Shell Petroleum and SNEPCO, in a joint venture scheme, for the purpose of prospecting and operating the said licence given by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“To the knowledge of Shell, the allocation of the oil well and the procedure adopted by the owners of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was fraught with fraud, but went ahead to consummate the transaction.
“Sometime on 2nd July 2001, the Federal Government withdrew the title and allocation of OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd on the directive of Mr. Funso Kupolokun, the then Presidential Adviser on Petroleum to President Olusegun Obansajo after which same was reallocated to Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd.
“Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd sued the Federal Government over the revocation, but the suit was later withdrawn and settled out of court by the parties and the said oil well was reallocated to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
“Shell and Agip again went into a fraudulent agreement with Malabu Oil and Gas, in which the companies will pay signature bonus of $210m to the Federal Government of Nigeria, while $1.2b would be paid to the owners of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
“Shell Petroleum was later to explain that the payment was for compensation, but investigation conducted revealed that the money was bribe to Dan Etete and his cronies.
“Shell was aware at the time of consummating this transaction that Dan Etete, the owner of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, was already a convict and hence, was not willing to pay the said sum of $1.2b directly to Dan Etete and or Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd directly.
“One Mohammed Adoke was the Federal Government counsel in series of arbitration instituted by Shell in London on the said oil well and, who later became the Attorney general of the Federation, conspired with Shell/Agip to route the payment of the said sum of $1.2b bribe money through Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase bank.
“The said Mohammed Adoke had written a letter ref. No: HAGF/FMPR/2011/Vol. 1/12 dated 9th February 2011 seeking the advice of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) on whether to consummate the transaction involving Shell Ultra Deep Sea, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, NNPC, Nigeria Agip Exploration and production Company (SNEPCO).
“The DPR replied in a letter reference No: PILD/880.T dated 1st of April 2011 and advised against the transaction on the ground that it was highly prejudicial to the interest of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Despite the advice, the then AGF, Mohammed Adoke approved the payment of the $1.2b bribe money through Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London. Sometime in May 2011 Nigeria Agip Exploration and SNEPCO instructed Chase Bank to release $1,092,040,000 into Escrow Account of the Federal Government.
“The money, on the instruction of the then AGF, Mohammed Adoke, was transferred from the Escrow Account to two banks namely, First Bank and Keystone Bank operated by Dan Etete and Malabu Oil and Gas ltd.
“The said amount was later laundered with several accounts of individuals and different companies. Investigation further revealed that the Federal Government was defrauded by SPDC and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd by under paying $210m as signature bonus on OPL 245.
“Investigation conducted revealed that Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and SPDC secured OPL245 through fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company.
“Information available to the applicant (EFCC) is to the effect that a London judge, sitting in the Southwark Crown Court refused to release to Dan Etete and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd $85m which is connected to the said fraudulent transaction by Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Agip Exploration and Malabu Oil and Gas in respect of OPL245.
“The $85m formed part of the proceeds of the fraudulent transaction between Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Agip Exploration and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. The said sum was seized as a result of request by Italian prosecutors,” EFCC said.