On Tuesday, former President Goodluck Jonathan debunked the claim on his involvement in the Malabu Oil transaction while in office. Italian oil giant, Eni and Royal Dutch Shell are being prosecuted in Italy for their shady $1.3 billion acquisition of the OPL245 oil block from Malabu Oil and Gas owned by Former Minister of Petroleum in Abacha’s regime, Dan Etete.
It is alleged that $801.5 million was transferred to the Malabu accounts, of which $466 million was used to remunerate government officials. Abubakar Aliyu, whom prosecutors describe as an “agent” of Jonathan, received $54 million. Dr Jonathan was named alongside former Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Attorney Generals Mohammed Adoke and Bayo Ojo, former Minister of Defense and ex-National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau as well as several other senior government officials for allegedly sharing $520 million in the Malabu deal.
Dr Jonathan’s denial of his involvement failed to acknowledge the fact that the deal was executed and that there was substantial evidence of lobbying.
The mode of the deal was contemplative because the oil block was not bought through the normal tendering process. “The block was bought illegally by the oil majors in contravention of domestic laws, “without competitive tendering” and with “full, unconditional exemption from all national taxes,” the Italian prosecutors said.
The Malabu case is a snag for Jonathan who has only gained a reputation based on the performance of the economy during his tenure. The international community had applauded Jonathan because of the economic boom that had occurred during his tenure as compared Nigeria’s current economic hardship.
There are several shady oil deals like this in the past with no indictments in Nigeria, especially those involving past leaders. In 2012, a Japanese corporation, Marubeni was fined $54 million by the United States for its role in bribing government officials towards obtaining a deal for TSKJ, a four-company joint venture that was seeking contracts to build a liquefied natural gas plant on Bonny Island, Nigeria.
The undermining situation is that these corporations never get prosecuted in the country where the deals have occurred – Nigeria. This is obvious as even the expected prosecutors are usually part of the scandal.
Nigerians are waiting for a past leader to be indicted. The Panama Papers scandals that involved several Nigerians led to the resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson while the Nigerians on the list are still living comfortably in the country.
It is a shame that the Nigerian government is allowing foreign prosecutors do its work for it. It would not be surprising if the Italian prosecutors indict these corporations before Nigeria does. The government has shown little interest in the deal despite its campaign against corruption; a campaign that could potentially be riddled as a joke because of a lack of the government’s drive to oust corruption.
The foreign prosecutors also have a part of the blame to receive as foreign prosecutors have hardly made any indictments. These bodies keep making allegations without convictions. The International Criminal Court in its 14 years of existence has only made three convictions. Nigerian criminals are hardly ever convicted despite a physical history of corruption scandals in the country.
Mr Etete is still the subject of a manhunt, with $255 million in bank accounts being frozen by the United Kingdom and Switzerland authorities. Mr Etete is also a beneficiary of the benevolence of foreign prosecutors despite his history of scandals in Nigeria.
The former minister of petroleum was involved in the Halliburton scandal and alleged to have received $2.5 million but never convicted. Mr Etete was also cleared by the French government in 2014 of all charges despite being convicted before for money laundering. The French government rather described him as a “great friend” of the country. Etete, if convicted, risks spending 12 years in jail in Italy.
It is likely certain that this probe would be buried under the carpet in Nigeria and if prosecution occurs, President Jonathan and other top government officials would be exempted from the prosecution and classified into the saintly apostleship of other past Nigerian leaders.
If the officials involved in the deal are clean, they should also come out and cooperate with these bodies rather than making statements of denials from their homes.
Nigerian prosecutors and international prosecutors should give the Nigerian populace a sense of hope that there is a possibility of convictions of the individuals involved in the scandals. Nigerians are tired of hearing these allegations without any action.