A UK court has ruled that Nigeria’s $1 billion suit against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, oil giants, cannot go on because it does not have jurisdiction over the case.
Christopher Butcher, the judge, gave the ruling at a virtual hearing on Friday, setting back the long standing trial on the Malabu oil deal of 2011.
Barnaby Pace, a journalist and oil campaigner who monitored the sitting, said Nigeria was also denied permission to appeal against the judgment.
3/ To read what’s happened up to now in the case check out the three days of live tweeting I did a few weeks ago covering the arguments that lead up the ruling today.https://twitter.com/pace_nik/status/1255055025254121472 …Barnaby Pace@pace_nik
Today in the English High Court oil giants @Shell and @eni Eni are arguing that a billion dollar lawsuit brought by Nigeria should not go ahead while there is also a claim for damages as part of the ongoing Milan criminal trial. I’ll be tweeting as we go.
The request was denied after Eni and Shell contested Nigeria’s arguments to appeal against the ruling — though Nigeria can still seek further permission to appeal.
Shell and Eni had asked the court to decline jurisdiction as the Italian case against the oil companies is still in progress.
The judgment does not affect the separate charges against the companies in an Italian court.
Pace reported that the judge held that the case and the Italian proceedings have the “same essential facts” and the same objective.
In 2011, the federal government brokered a deal between Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, the original allotees of the enormously endowed but controversial OPL 245, and Shell/ENI who wanted to buy the oil block from the Nigerian company.
While Shell and ENI paid a signature bonus of $210 million to the federal government, they paid $1.1 billion to buy 100 percent interest in the oil block from Malabu.
The entire $1.3 billion was transferred to the account of the federal government in London, UK, from where Malabu was paid its $1.1 billion.
Subsequently, it was alleged that bribes were paid to officials of the government to facilitate the deal, which is considered unfavourable to Nigeria as the value of the oil block is estimated to be worth much more than what was paid for it.
Eni and Shell denied the bribery allegations. Eni also said it has not made any profit from the deal because “Nigeria has declined to grant a mining license”.