Malabu Scandal: Despite prosecution of Shell, top officials, Nigeria allows continued operation of oil block

epa05113059 (FILE) A file photo dated 30 July 2015 showing a company flag flying infront of the head office of Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague, The Netherlands. Royal Dutch Shell plc on 20 January 2016 reported a sharp fall in profits for the last quarter of 2015 as low oil prices hit earnings and the company restructured to reduce costs. Shell said it expected fourth-quarter earnings to be between 1.6 billion and 1.9 billion dollars, down from 4.2 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2014. Full-year earnings, including the impact of lower prices on the company's oil inventory, are expected to total 10.4 billion to 10.7 billion dollars, about 45 per cent lower than the 19 billion dollars reported in 2014.  EPA/JERRY LAMPEN [Photo Credit: Financial Times]
epa05113059 (FILE) A file photo dated 30 July 2015 showing a company flag flying infront of the head office of Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague, The Netherlands. Royal Dutch Shell plc on 20 January 2016 reported a sharp fall in profits for the last quarter of 2015 as low oil prices hit earnings and the company restructured to reduce costs. Shell said it expected fourth-quarter earnings to be between 1.6 billion and 1.9 billion dollars, down from 4.2 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2014. Full-year earnings, including the impact of lower prices on the company's oil inventory, are expected to total 10.4 billion to 10.7 billion dollars, about 45 per cent lower than the 19 billion dollars reported in 2014. EPA/JERRY LAMPEN [Photo Credit: Financial Times]

When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo addressed attendees at a two-day conference on ‘Beneficial Ownership’ in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday, he made reference to the Malabu scandal. Mr. Osinbajo said Nigeria was still grappling with the negative consequences of the use of secrecy by senior government officials and their cronies between 1993 and 1998 to award themselves juicy contracts in the extractive industry.

In Malabu oil scandal, then Minister of Petroleum Resources under the Sani Abacha administration, Dan Etete, used his official position to secretly allocate a lucrative oil prospecting license, OPL 245, to a company he had interest.

It is for this reason and several other corrupt acts involving the oil block that the anti-graft agency, EFCC, is pushing that the block returns back to the Nigerian government.

However, oil giants ENI and Agip, who secured the block from Mr. Etete in shady circumstances, are doing all they can to frustrate the EFCC including by negotiating with the petroleum ministry and the vice president.

Two days after PREMIUM TIMES reported that Italian prosecutors have charged Shell executives for their alleged roles in the controversial sale of OPL 245 oil field, Mr. Osinbajo met with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to discuss commencement of production of crude oil on the disputed field.
 
The meeting, which also had the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, in attendance, focused on how Eni, through its Nigerian subsidiary Agip, could ramp up production of crude oil on the Zabazaba deepwater field, according to Mr. Kachikwu, who briefed reporters shortly after the meeting Wednesday.
 
It marks the latest in a string of discussions Mr. Osinbajo has chaired over the OPL 245 since the beginning of the year, as Buhari administration deepens business ties with Shell and Eni —the two multinational oil giants caught up in the raging $1.3 billion Malabu Oil scandal.
 
Mr. Osinbajo held a similar meeting with Mr. Kachikwu on May 9, during which the duo discussed the need to focus on the business side of the scandal rather than its potential criminal implications, which are already being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
 
A day after the latest discussion, Agip confirmed it was continuing with the operation of the Zabazaba field, which is part of the OPL 245 block.
 
A week ago, Italian prosecutors announced charges against top officials at Shell for their alleged roles in the 2011 deal which was supervised by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
 
Although the full list of the newly-charged suspects has not been disclosed, Global Witness quoted Milan Prosecutor’s Office as confirming that it included Malcom Brinded, second most senior official at Shell when the controversial deal was struck in 2011. 

Mr. Brinded, who was the head of upstream operations, was eased out of his position earlier this year when Shell started feeling the heat from the fallout over the scandal.
 
Barnaby Pace of the UK-based Global Witness told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Brinded and at least three other Shell executives would be arraigned alongside others that have been identified by Italian prosecutors as co-conspirators in the Malabu fraud.
 
Although Shell acknowledged it had prior knowledge that the deal involved a convicted money launderer, the company denied its officials directly participated in any bribery scheme.

In December 2016, prosecutors indicated their interest to charge 13 persons for their alleged roles in the oil deal.
 
Mr. Etete, was amongst those Italian authorities sought to charge last December, but their trials have not commenced. 

“We’ve heard that the final preliminary hearing to rule on the prosecutor’s request for trial is at the end of this month so that’s the earliest we could have that decision,” Mr. Pace told PREMIUM TIMES Monday.
 
Milan prosecutors have investigated the Malabu deal since 2012 when suspicion began to mount over the deal.
 
Also in December 2016, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed charges against Mr. Etete and a former Attorney-General Bello Adoke, both of whom remained at large in foreign countries.
 
The duo had long maintained no wrongdoing, saying the Nigerian and Italian authorities were on a witch-hunt.
 
Mr. Jonathan has also been identified as a person of interest in the deal, with the F.B.I. revealing that the former president probably received over $200 million in bribes to authorise the deal.
 
But the former president denied all allegations of criminal conspiracy in the scandal.
 
“We wish to make it clear that former President Jonathan was not accused, indicted or charged with corruptly collecting any monies as kickbacks or bribes from ENI by the Italian authorities or any other law enforcement body the world over,” Mr. Jonathan said in a statement in January.
 
About $520 million was said to have been shared between Mr. Jonathan and officials in his government, which included Mr. Adoke.
 
“This could be the biggest corporate bribery trial in history, and a watershed moment for the oil industry,” Mr. Pace said in a statement.
 
“The top brass of the UK’s largest company is in the dock after it finally admitted dealing with a convicted money launderer. 
 
“There can be no clearer sign that wholesale change is needed. Shell must first apologise to the Nigerian people, then take clear steps to reassure investors and the broader public that this won’t happen again,” Mr. Pace added.
 
But while authorities in different jurisdictions across Europe are focused like a laser on prosecuting all those involved, the Buhari administration appears fixated on whatever monetary value it could extract from the scandal.
 
“Total investment from Agip involved in both the Zabazaba field, the power plant and the new refinery is in excess of $15 billion,” Mr. Kachikwu said after a meeting with Mr. Osinbajo in May. “That is a major push in terms of our search for investment.”
 
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries about how the presidency’s tête-à-têtes with Agip and Shell over OPL 245 could affect the anti-graft agency’s ongoing investigation and prosecution.


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  • Augustine 2000

    EDITOR SIR,

    Last warming to Nigerian journalists!

    I am not a wicked person but I can do and undo. If any Editor in Premium Times should insult me again,
    by calling Muhamadu Buhari a man of integrity, you will see me in my true colours. It is lack of English
    that makes someone to call a rogue “a man of integrity”. If you don’t know the meaning of the word
    “integrity” you have to buy Advanced Learner’s dictionary and look at the meaning there.

    How can Muhamadu Buhari be a man of integrity, how, tell me! Do you want to corrupt our children
    in Nigeria that man of integrity means somebody who did not sit or pass Wasc or GCE but tells lies
    that he took the Waec exam? This is how you journalists under-develop Nigeria.

    I will not take it from you. Enough is enough! Somebody that has committed so many offences,
    to stand criminal trial, is the person you journalists are calling a man of integrity?

    Do you know how many offences Buhari committed by appointing a criminal fugitive and promoting
    that same criminal fugitive as Director of the federal civil service? Do you know there is what the
    lawyers call “obstruction of justice“, which is a criminal offence? Do you know there is something
    else called “aiding and abetting“? Instead of you journalists to do a long list of these offences
    you are calling a criminal “a man of integrity”. I am waiting for any Editor to repeat that sheer
    nonsense by calling Buhari a man of integrity. Just repeat it once more. You’ll see the other
    side of me. What nonsense are you people writing?

  • 360°

    PLEASE WHEN WILL EFCC ARREST Abdulrasheed Maina who ran away FROM NIGERIA
    MANY YEARS AGO OVER 100 BILLION NAIRA THEFT OF PENSION FUND, BUT WHO WAS
    REINSTATED BY NIGERIA’s CORRUPT PRESIDENT – MUHAMADU BUHARI – ON OCTOBER
    2ND THIS YEAR, AND PROMOTED THE SAME DAY AS FULL DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE
    ON THE QUIET, SECRET AND CORRUPT DIRECTIVE OF BUHARI’s ATTORNEY GENERAL?

    • Umudi O. Akum

      @Rumournaire:disqus

      My friend, so if armed robbery can bring your children more food and travels you will do it, right?
      Or what are you saying? You are saying that nobody should worry about the theft of the oil bloc
      but think only of the amount of tax Nigeria is getting from the thieves. Which school did you go?
      Instead of you to face the issue thatMuhamadu Buhari has no balls to fight any corruption at all.

  • Rumournaire

    The headline of this story shows that the writer had little understanding of how the oil industry works. Apparently you think production from the block for as long as the case is in court. If you knew how much accrues to the country from that production you would talk differently.

  • emmanuel

    This is how to cover Baru barawo’s abuse of Nigeria law and outright theft and Buhari/Dambazzau desecration of Nigeria.
    These two evils must not be swept under
    Oke’s $48 million, The Phantom $5.5 billion new loan request, Osinbajo’s lie of releasing $2 billion for second Niger Bridge, Baru’s $26 billion and recall of Maina to service are all part of the gargantuan desecration of Nigeria engaged in by the PAC and Buhari’s government to ridicule the black race before the world.
    They must not go away!

  • Patrick Otobo

    In one breath Premium Times stated “Mr. Jonathan has also been identified as a person of interest in the deal, with the F.B.I. revealing that the former president probably received over $200 million in bribes to authorise the deal.”

    In another breath Premium Stated “About $520 million was said to have been shared between Mr. Jonathan and officials in his government, which included Mr. Adoke.” All these are conjectures from PT, a discredited online platform whose dubious promoters ( Nuhu Ribadu and Dapo Oloruntyomi ) are the most corrupt former public officers in this country.

    Premium Times will do us a whole lot of good by publishing the document where the FBI revealed that GEJ probably received over $200 million or forever shut up. The truth of the matter is that Musikilu Mojeed (The Editor of Premium Times) is doing a hatchet job which he has been paid handsomely for by some economic vultures and his Mumu can never do.