Charged with aiding and abetting money laundering in the $1.1 billion Malabu deal, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. Adoke also restated his earlier claim that he represented the government in negotiating a deal between willing parties. He pledged to make himself available for trial.
“I hope to at the appropriate time make myself available to defend the charge for what whatever its worth,” he said from his base in the Netherlands.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Adoke said his office brokered the agreement between Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Limited to prevent Nigeria from paying a fine of $2 billion as damages for breach of contract.
He added that his office involvement was based on previous claims made by Shell before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
“I wish to reiterate that I acted within the actual and ostensible authority of the Office I occupied to broker a settlement between Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited in order to ward off the over US$2 Billion Dollars liability in damages for breach of contract which the country would have been exposed to in the likely event of the success of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited’s claim before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
“The Terms of Settlement ensured that the interests of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited were duly acknowledged and provided for in the Settlement Agreement. The Federal Government of Nigeria was entitled to the Signature bonus which was duly paid; Malabu Oil & Gas Limited surrendered its title to OPL 245 for a consideration and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited was re-allocated OPL 245 which had previously substantially de-risked in consideration for withdrawing their over US$ 2 Billion Dollars claim for breach of contract against the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Since the Parties aforementioned, faithfully discharged their respective obligations under the Settlement Agreement, one cannot comprehend how the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation which brokered the Settlement was expected to renege from the agreement by denying Malabu Oil & Gas Limited the benefits associated with the relinquishing of their title to OPL 245 already warehoused in a joint FGN/Shell Escrow account, or to prevent the subsequent re-allocation of the relinquished OPL 245 to Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited when the company had already furnished consideration for it to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr. Adoke described his inclusion in the nine-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as ‘an orchestrated plan to bring him to disrepute’.
“The charge of aiding the commission of money laundering offences preferred against me has finally confirmed the orchestrated plans to bring me to public disrepute in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of some powerful interests on revenge mission,” he said.
Nigeria’s richest oil block, OPL 245, was controversially awarded to a new company, Malabu Oil and Gas, days after it was created, during the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha.
The company, partly owned by the then Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, was registered on April 20, 1998 and was awarded the block nine days later.
The Department of Petroleum Resources last week confirmed that due process was not followed in the award of the block and that it was awarded to Malabu only on the directive of Mr. Abacha.
After several political and judicial intrigues that ensured OPL 245 changed hands several times between Malabu, Shell, and the Nigerian government, Goodluck Jonathan emerged Nigeria’s president in 2010. On the prompting of Mr. Adoke, one of Mr. Jonathan’s first directive upon assuming office was that the oil block be given to Mr. Etete’s Malabu after the latter had fraudulently schemed out other owners of the firm.
A year after Mr. Jonathan approved the block to Malabu, the 2011 agreements that led to the payment of the $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI into Nigerian government account was reached.
To ensure no one stopped the shady transfer of the $1.1 billion to Mr. Etete, the money had to be quickly transferred. More so, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was set to assume office as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and the officials involved were not sure she would play ball.
On August 16, 2011, a day before Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was to assume office, Mr. Adoke and the then Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, authorised the transfer of the money to Malabu accounts in Nigeria controlled by Mr. Adoke. However, all the $1.1 billion could not be transferred. Emeka Obi, a man who claimed he helped broker the deal between Malabu and the oil majors filed a suit in the UK, that ensured $215 million was frozen of the money. The remaining $801 million were subsequently transferred to Mr. Etete: $400 million was transferred to a Bank PHB account while $401 million was transferred to a First Bank account.
Shell and ENI had repeatedly claimed they did not know the money was going to end up with Malabu. Investigations in Nigeria and Italy as well as leaked documents however revealed that claim to be false. Mr. Adoke’s statement on Wednesday also punctured Shell and ENI’s claim.
Mr. Adoke is charged alongside Mr. Etete as well as controversial businessman Abubakar Aliyu and companies linked to him who received about half of the money paid to Mr. Etete.