On the day the anti-graft agency, EFCC, expressed its frustrations in locating two ex-Nigerian ministers on trial for their alleged roles in the Malabu scandal, the federal government announced that UK authorities returned $85 million (about N30 billion) to Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported on the deal, enmeshed in various layers of corruption, and currently under investigation by authorities in four countries from three continents.
The $1.092 billion was meant as payment for an oil block, OPL 245, one of the juiciest oil blocks in Africa, estimated to contain about 9.23 billion barrels of crude oil.
Mr. Etete awarded the oil block to Malabu in 1998 while he was Nigeria’s petroleum minister against Nigerian laws as he failed to declare his interest in the company and actually falsified a fictional character, Kweku Amafegha, through which he owned shares in the company.
Both the givers, Shell and ENI, and the Nigerian government have given contradictory reasons on the 2011 agreement which led to Mr. Etete being paid money which should have gone to improving the lives of Nigerians.
While Shell and ENI have, contrary to all evidence, claimed that they paid the money to the Nigerian government not knowing who the final beneficiary would be, the Nigerian government through the former attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, claimed it only acted as a “facilitator” between two willing parties.
After the oil giants paid the $1.1 billion into a Nigerian govt account in the UK in 2011, Mr. Adoke, the then attorney general of the federation, authorised the transfer of the money Mr. Etete’s accounts in Nigeria.
However, applications by persons who claimed to be middlemen in the deal meant only about $801 million of the money could be transferred to Mr. Etete’s account.
Messrs. Adoke and Etete are both being prosecuted by the EFCC for their roles in the scandal. The two oil giants and some of their officials also face prosecution for their roles both in Nigeria and Italy.
The current attorney general, Abubakar Malami confirmed in Abuja on Thursday that the $85 million had been returned to the Nigerian government.