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Malabu: Shell, Agip battle Fed Govt over OPL245 P6

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, two multi-national companies named in the Malabu Oil deal, have challenged the January 26, orders granting temporary control of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to the Federal Government.
Both companies, accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of involvement in some fraudulent transactions in relation to the transaction, were in control of the OPL 245 (the subject of the Malabu Oil deal) before the January 26 orders.
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 Federal 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.
Shell and Agip have however filed applications seeking the vacation of the order, arguing that the court was misled into granting it.
When the case was called yesterday 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.
EFCC lawyer 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 till February 27 for hearing of the applications.
At yesterday’s proceedings were some individuals linked to the deal, including the son of the late General Sani Abacha, Mohammed, and businessman Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, among others.
The EFCC, while applying for the order, explained the alleged role played by Shell and Agip in the transaction, 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 bribe to ex-Petroleum Resources Minister Dan Etete, using his position in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
EFCC stated, in a supporting affidavit, that: ”Sometime in April 1998, Malabo 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 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 Malabu 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, the Gen Abacha, Etete and 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.”
The EFCC said Shell know that the allocation of the oil well and the procedure adopted by the owners of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd were fraught with fraud, but went ahead to consummate the transaction.
The agency went on: “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 $1.2b bribe money through Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase bank.”
Adoke, the EFCC said, had written a letter 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 on April 1, 2011 advised against the transaction on the ground that it was highly prejudicial to the Federal Government’s interest.
Despite the advice, Adoke approved the payment of the $1.2b bribe money through Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London, the agency said, adding: “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 Adoke’s instruction, the EFCC claimed, was transferred from the Escrow Account to two banks accounts operated by Dan Etete and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
The EFCC went on: “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.”