A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Jabi, has adjourned hearing of an application seeking a warrant of arrest against Nigerian officials implicated in the controversial Malabu Oil scandal.
The application was brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and seeks the arrest of Dan Etete, a former petroleum minister, and Mohammed Adoke, a former justice minister.
Also involved were Raph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefano, and Burrato Sebastiano.
In a statement signed by EFCC spokesperson, Tony Orilade, on Monday, it said Justice Danlami Senchi of the court refused to grant the application on the grounds that the substantive suit was yet to be argued by the parties in the matter.
According to the statement, Mr Senchi had ordered the arrest of Messrs Etete, Adoke, Ralph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefeno, and Burrato Sebastiano on April 17, 2019, for not making themselves available for trial since 2017.
PREMIUM TIMES reported April 17 how the judge granted the EFCC a warrant of arrest against the Nigerian officials involved in the controversial deal.
The EFCC, in 2017 pressed charges against Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Co. Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Eni Spa, Raph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefeno, Burrato Sebastiano, Duazia Louya Etete (aka Dan Etete), Mohammed Bello Adoke, Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by Mr Etete.
From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to the accounts of companies controlled by Abubakar Aliyu, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.
Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers, and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Mr Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false.
Shell, Eni, Mr Etete, Mr Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.
In suit No. FCT/HC/M/546/2019, Mr Etete’s counsel, L.O Ikwegwe told the court that she had just been served with the EFCC’s counter-affidavit and will need time to respond to it.
The counsel representing the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants, Joe Gadzama, told the court he was yet to see the EFCC’s counter-affidavit and therefore, ”will be asking for an adjournment.”
Mr Gadzama also reportedly told the court that he served the EFCC the defendant’s affidavit since April 24, 2019, accompanied with the hearing notice,
He added that with the new issues introduced in the counter-affidavit, he will be filing additional processes.
According to the statement, Mr Gadzama urged the court to make the prosecution an undertaking not to proceed with the arrest since there was a legal challenge to it.
Faje Opasanya, counsel to Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd, Eni SPA, also told the court that he was also constrained to ask for adjournment as new allegations were raised in the EFCC’s counter-affidavit.
He also told the court to restrain the EFCC from carrying out the arrest order.
The counsel to EFCC, Aliyu Yusuf, reminded the court that the defendants’ applications were for a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest and therefore prayed the court to reject the oral application for the stay.
According to the statement, Justice Senchi adjourned the matter till June 11 to rule on all the motions and counter-motions before the court and for the parties to argue the substantive suit.
He said the oral stay of execution submission made by the defendants’ touched on the main application and ordered an accelerated hearing on the matter.
He further ordered that any party that needed to file any processes must do so by June 5, 2019, and that no processes shall be accepted after the date.