Malabu oil: ENI, EFCC, Adoke in battle of wits over questionable $1.6 billion deal

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In rapid succession, the running scandal over Malabu Oil’s OPL 245 has been in the news. First, it was ENI Nigeria Agip Oil Company giving itself a clean bill of financial health. It declared that a US-based law firm of forensic investigators had said that all transactions related to the $1.6 billion deal were fraud free.

A day after the ENI Board statement absolving the company and its chief executive officer, the Federal Government which has temporarily seized the oil block, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed two separate charges at Abuja-based High Courts against former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke, former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete and three oil companies over alleged $801 million bribe.

Three oil companies: Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company (SNEPCO) Ltd, AGIP Exploration Ltd and ENI SPA and their directors were also charged separately over the grant of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245.

EFCC accused Adoke and 11 others in three counts of conspiracy and engaging in fraud involving $2, 267,400 in September 2013.

Also, Adoke and one Alhaji Abubakar were alleged to have on September 16, 2013 conspired to commit money laundering when they directly took possession of the sum of $2, 267, 400 and converted it to the Naira equivalent being the sum of N345.2 million using one Usman Bello, a bureau de change (BDC) operator.

The offences are contrary to Section 18, 16 (2) 16(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act. The case has been assigned to Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

24 hours after these dramas played out, Adoke fired a statement that EFCC was being used by some vested interests to come after him for preventing the interests from short-changing the country. Adoke has been away from the country pursuing a course of study, for what analysts have suggested is a ploy not to be arrested and prosecuted.

He was said to have been questioned by Italian investigators in Netherlands last year.

But his statement yesterday reads in fulL: My attention has been drawn to yet another set of spurious and malicious charges filed against 10 others and me by the EFCC in

relation to the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement involving Malabu Oil &
Gas Limited (MALABU) and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD). This
renewed move to taint the transaction with illegality is coming at the
heels of the spirited moves being made by the EFCC to defend the
Interim Forfeiture Order they secured against the beneficiaries of the
Block (Shell and ENI) who are challenging it.

While it is not within my province to join the fray, as the
beneficiaries are capable of vigorously asserting their interests, I
am however concerned that the EFCC has continued to allow its
investigations/operations in respect OPL 245 to be micro-managed
and/or tele-guided by some non-state actors and powerful families with
professed ownership interests in the Block. These non-state actors are
hell bent on using state institutions as proxies in their nefarious
quest to out smart each other to the proceeds of MALABU’s divestment
from OPL 245. I had informed Nigerians in my previous reactions that I
had become a target of these powerful individuals for refusing to
allow the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and
Minister of Justice to be used to settle their private business
interests and the fact that they had vowed to use their connections in
Government and with the EFCC to settle personal scores with me. It is
now clear to me that the EFCC is working hands in glove with them and
lending its institutional support to this devilish scheme.

Has the EFCC gone overboard? How else can one explain the Commission’s
deliberate suppression of facts at their disposal and the
orchestration of falsehood in a bid to portray me to the public as a
corrupt official? What is responsible for this reckless and
reprehensible move by the EFCC to link my Mortgage repayment to Unity
Bank of Nigeria to the alleged bribe of $2.2 million, when the
documentation in the Bank in respect of the mortgage is available for
any objective person to appraise and come to an informed conclusion?
While not going into the merits, it is pertinent to state that I had
applied for a Mortgage Loan in the sum of N 300,000,000 million from
Unity Bank of Nigeria to purchase a property from Aliyu Abubakar, a
property developer in Abuja. The Bank paid the loan sum directly to
the developer and when I could not meet up with the repayments or pay
the balance; the he opted to repossess the property. I consented to
this option and the developer directly paid the Bank the Loan sum and
the Certificate of Occupancy was released to him. The EFCC is aware of
this transaction and the fact that the developer subsequently sold the
property to the Central Bank of Nigeria. If this were not the case,
they would have applied to have the mortgaged property forfeited.
Despite this information, the EFCC in furtherance of its preconceived
plan to ridicule and tarnish my name has hinged on this Mortgage
transaction to slam me with a preposterous charge of collecting a
bribe of $2.2 million on the OPL 245 resolution transaction.

I wish to restate, once more, that to the best of my knowledge,
information and belief, there was nothing illegal or shady about the
resolution of the dispute over the ownership and operation of OPL 245.
All the State actors that midwifed the Settlement including my humble
self, acted in the national interests. We had the requisite
Presidential Approvals to enter into a negotiated settlement, execute
the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement & the OPL 245 Re-Allocation and all
other ancillary steps required to ensure that the transaction was
consummated.

It is disheartening to note that the EFCC is only focused on impugning
the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement without informing Nigerians on the
benefits that the Nigerian State has derived from the Settlement. It
is on record that our actions saved Nigeria over $ 2 Billion in
damages from the ICSID Arbitration that was instituted by SNUD;
resolved claims of MALABU against the Federal Government of Nigeria
over the Ownership of OPL 245, and settled the competing claims of
MALABU and SNUD over OPL 245 that had over two decades prevented the
BLOCK 245 from being operational despite the immense economic benefits
derivable from its operation. Instead, we hear of how the interests of
the Abacha family in OPL 245 were not protected or that the records of
MALABU with the Corporate Affairs Commission were altered to exclude
certain powerful individuals with close links to the EFCC and this
administration.

It will be recalled that I had asserted, while in office, that the
Office of the Attorney General of the Federation would not be used to
settle the personal interests of these powerful families and
individuals and that the law courts were available for them to
ventilate their so called “ownership or shareholding disputes in
Malabu Oil & Gas Limited”. But, regrettably, it would appear that
times have changed; state-actors are now willing to align forces with
them either for pecuniary gains and/or political exigencies to use
state machinery to impugn and set aside the transaction for their
benefit. I am perceived to be an obstacle to the realization of this
ignoble objective, hence this renewed and persistent attacks and
harassment on my person.

Nigerians are invited to x-ray the transaction, ascertain who had
title to OPL 245?, the competing claims against the Federal Government
of Nigeria from Malabu and SNUD, the terms of OPL 245 Resolution
Agreement and OPL 245 Re- Allocation Agreement, whether signature
bonus on OPL 245 was paid to the FGN, whether the Escrow account was
jointly operated by FGN and Shell. Furthermore, Nigerians should be
given details of the alleged bribes paid. We are interested to know
who got what? From whom?, and the relevant dates. It is not enough
for Agencies of government to label former State-actors as corrupt in
the public space without putting information upon which they assert
their claim to the public for proper scrutiny. The EFCC relies on a
gullible populace that does not ask pertinent questions to perpetrate
injustice and this should not be allowed to take firm roots in our
polity or else the war against corruption will not only be tainted
with corruption but also hijacked to satisfy the whims and caprices of
a few powerful individuals with the right family and political
connections to this administration.

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