On Monday, April 10, 2017, the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice and the leader of the ad-hoc committee investigating the $1.3 billion Malabu oil deal, Razak Atunwa disclosed that the committee would invite former president Goodluck Jonathan to testify on his role in the award of Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245, to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. According to Razak, recent developments from the committee’s investigation demand that Jonathan testify. A Russian middleman who brokered the deal, Ednan Agaev told Italian prosecutors that Jonathan may have received a $200 million bribe from former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.
However, former president Jonathan described reports linking him to the oil scandal as the work of his detractors, who are threatened by his rising international profile. The former president has become the highest profile individual involved in the messy scandal.
What we know
Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, is co-owned by former Nigerian petroleum minister under the Abacha regime, Dan Etete. It was awarded the controversial OPL 245 in 1998 by the Abacha regime. Malabu appointed Shell as its technical adviser. After the death of Abacha, legal wrangling started between Malabu and Shell over the oil bloc.
In 2011 former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the license and gave it to Shell. According to a letter written by former attorney general and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke Bello, with excerpts in the Punch, this development forced Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd to take the matter to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Petroleum. The committee frowned at the revocation as it found no basis for such and subsequently ordered that the license be returned to Malabu.
“Malabu also instituted Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2003, before the Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, to enforce its claim to OPL 245. Although the suit was struck out by the FHC, Malabu lodged Appeal No. CA/A/99M/2006 before the Court Appeal, Abuja, Division,” wrote Adoke Bello.
“During the pendency of the appeal, an amicable settlement was entered into between Malabu and the Federal Government and in compliance with the terms of settlement executed by the parties on the November 30, 2006, OPL 245 was fully and completely restored to Malabu in consideration for its withdrawal of the appeal,” he said.
Adoke, who denied brokering the deal, stated that Shell was not happy with the development and it took up the matter before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington DC, demanding $2 billion from the Nigerian government for breach of contract. It also commenced a suit against the government before the Federal High Court, Abuja. An agreement was eventually reached for Shell to pay $1.2 billion dollars to the federal government who will in turn settle Malabu to relinquish its rights to the disputed tract. Adoke stated that he implemented the terms of the settlement as directed by Jonathan.
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), after investigations, considered the deal which was brokered by the federal government led by Adoke between Malabu and Shell as fraudulent and breach of Nigeria’s money laundering laws. It is also seeking an arrest warrant for Adoke whom it accused of diverting the sum of $800 million paid into the federal government’s escrow account at JP Morgan Chase Bank to Malabu. The EFCC also arraigned the owner of Malabu, Dan Etete, and other accomplices on charges of receiving the monies and transferring them to other accounts.
The EFCC also sought and obtained an order from a Federal High Court in Abuja, ordering the interim forfeiture of the lucrative oil block, Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245, to the Federal Government, pending investigation and prosecution of suspects in the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil scam.
According to reports from Buzzfeed, after emails between employees of Shell and the February 2016 call recording of the oil company’s current chief executive, Ben van Beurden, were made public, Shell has eventually admitted that it knew that some of the monies that they paid to the government would be used to settle Malabu, Dan Etete and other Nigerian government officials as bribe, and it still went ahead with the deal.