By: Ifeanyi Izeze
Whichever way you look at it, the order by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, to the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to re-investigate the resolution of the dispute surrounding Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to determine if any offence was committed by the parties already charged before the court, is at best curious and at worst absurd.
Is it not interesting that when the case is already being prosecuted at the court, The Attorney General is now saying “the Malabu case should be investigated “thoroughly in order to satisfy the constituent elements of offences as the investigation by the EFCC does not appear to have clearly revealed the case of fraud against the parties in view of their claims that they acted in their official capacities with purported approval of the president”?
Here are extracts from The Attorney General’s letter: “Having fully examined the entire case file, I am incline to request you to consider the charge in relation to the composition of the parties, the offences, the proof of evidence and the case summary in view of the fact that nothing in the proof of evidence appears to have directly linked parties to the offences as charged.
“A curious observation of the entire file clearly indicates that the proof of evidence is unlikely to support the counts which border on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.”
He gave the following reasons for reaching the above conclusion: “first, there is nothing to show that the parties as constituted were at all times working together and having a meeting of the mind to wit: to forge CAC documents and use it for the purpose of divesting the shares of the complainant and thereafter enter into a settlement agreement with the federal government and other parties to take delivery of the proceeds of sale of OPL 245.
“Secondly, there is nothing in the proof of evidence to support the charge of money laundering therefore it is unrealistic for the prosecution to prove the elements which include illicit funds, attempt to conceal/concealment of illicit funds, transfer of such funds through various channels to introduce same as legitimate funds, in financial institutions without the express proof of these elements, this count may not be sustainable.
“On the above grounds, I am of the considered view that there is the need to consolidate on the charges and the matter be thoroughly investigated especially regarding the allegations of wrongdoing in connection with the $ 1.1 billion in order to satisfy the constituent elements of offences.
“You are to also take steps to urgently file an application fora worldwide mareva injunction and or the forfeiture of the assets of the beneficiaries of the $1.1billion pending the conclusion of your investigation in the areas above stated.”
So on what premise was the former Attorney General, Adoke and others dragged all these while by the anti-graft agency? And is it possible for the EFCC to have proceeded to court in the first instance to prosecute such high level case involving very senior government officials without first being cleared by the AGF? So why is Malami making this about-turn now? Can we just be serious for once as a people in the comity of nations?
Is it not curious that 20 years after it was first awarded, OPL 245 has continued to generate controversy?
The reason is very obvious. OPL 245 is located on the southern edge of the Niger Delta, in water depths ranging from 1,700 to 2,000 metres. The block holds significant discovered hydrocarbon reserves and is thought to be very prospective. Two oil and gas discoveries have been made on the block. Etan and Zabazaba were discovered in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Eni plans to develop the Etan and Zabazaba fields in phases with subsea wells tied-back to a leased floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel.
The block, considered the richest in Africa, is estimated to contain over 9 billion barrels of crude and even larger volume of gas reserves. For comparison, at Nigeria’s current OPEC oil output quota of 2.2 million barrels per day, OPL 245 alone can provide all Nigeria’s daily oil production needs for over 15 years.
Yes, it was Abacha’s government that conceived the original fraud in 1998 but we have since gone beyond that in the integrity issues at stake in this matter. We always miss the point and end up wasting time investigating issues that logically leads nowhere.
Two questions Nigerians should ask: who was Nigeria’s president and petroleum minister in 2001 when the prospecting license of oil bloc OPL 245 was revoked and ownership reverted to the federal government? Who was Nigeria’s president and petroleum minister in 2006 when after series of negotiations the license was restored and ownership of the oil bloc reverted to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited?
Was it not our dear Gen (Dr) Olusegun Obasanjo who makes public expression of his belief in Nigeria a habit? How this man has managed to hoodwink Nigerians and the world would continue to surprise any sane mind. Truth be told, he believes in Nigeria because he is amongst the sacred cows who stole Nigeria into stillborn and this is what people in government would not want to say for whatever reasons
This is it: Following the out -of -court settlement which took place under Obasanjo as president and oil minister there were two agreements signed. First was the Malabu Resolution Agreement – this agreement supposedly settled all claims to the OPL 245 between the federal government and Malabu Oil and Gas for a consideration of $1.1 billion
The Second one was the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement – this agreement was between the oil majors – SNEPCO, SNUD, ENI, NNPC and the Federal Government accepting the OPL 245 for a consideration of $1.1 billion to be paid to Malabu. In this agreement, the federal government took care of its Signature Bonus which was paid by SNEPCO on behalf of SNUD (being an affiliate of SNEPCO).
The Federal Government’s role in the second agreement was to take the money paid for the license by Shell and Eni and transfer it to Malabu Oil and Gas.
The money was never owned by the government either as payment for exploration license, royalties or any fee whatsoever. So technically, the funds belonged to Malabu. This was why Shell and Eni paid directly to the Federal Government and the government immediately wired the money to Malabu.
So the issue of the $1.1 billion was negotiated, agreed and settled by Obsanjo as president and petroleum minister. Jonathan and his AGF, Adoke merely carried out what the federal government under Obasanjo had committed to do. Don’t ask me whether the Jonathan men benefitted in any form from the payment. We can also ask if Obasanjo himself benefitted from his mediation intervention. The answer is a loud yes because he ended up being a part owner of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. That’s how you find Otunba Fasawe as a director incorporated during the conciliation process.
Let EFCC look for those who benefited from the big chunk of the money released by Etete after the payment. The agreement, although not palatable, was approved by the authorities. It is the bribe distributed by Etete after receiving the payout that the international community is concerned with. If any government official is involved in the over $600m distributed, with the help of international community, such individuals should be fished out.
The tragedy of the situation is that our EFCC as we have it today does not have the capacity to carry out investigations of this scope and above all tragically lacks the will-power to be honest and sincere to do what is needed of it. This is my point! God bless Nigeria!!
(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja: firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)