A prosecution witness, on Thursday, told the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jabi, in Abuja, how a former Nigerian ambassador to the United States, Hassan Adamu, approached him over the incorporation of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, a firm at the centre of the controversies surrounding the highly lucrative oil block, OPL 245.
The witness, Aliyu Jabu, testified that he was given 20 per cent shares as a non-executive chairman and later the managing director of the company between 1998 and 2001.
Then petroleum minister, Dan Etete, had controversially awarded the OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, a firm in which he had interest, in 1998.
Years of ownership disputes over the oil block had culminated in a deal brokered by the Nigerian government in 2011 between Malabu Oil on one side, and oil giants – Shell and Eni, on the other side.
Investigators and prosecutors in Nigeria and abroad have maintained that about $1.1 billion proceeds of the deal, purportedly meant for Malabu Oil to concede to a final transfer of the OPL 245 oil well to Shell and Agip, was largely distributed to top Nigerian officials, officials of the oil giants, and others as bribes.
In the case pending at the FCT High Court, the EFCC accuses a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, of receiving a N300 million bribe in facilitating the alleged fraudulent 2011 deal between Malabu and Shell with Agip over the oil block.
Other charges include the forgery of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) documents concerning Malabu to implement a shady change of ownership and shares allotment structures of the firm.
The defendants face a total of 42 charges before the trial judge, Idris Kutigi.
Mr Adoke and other defendants have denied the charges.
The six other defendants standing trial along with the ex-AGF are: a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar (second defendant), Rasky Gbinigie (third), the company secretary of Malabu; Malabu Oil and Gas Limited (fourth), Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (fifth), Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (sixth) and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited (seventh).
Testifying as a prosecution witness on Thursday, Mr Jabu, who said he was invited by a former Nigerian ambassador to U.S., Mr Adamu, to take up some shares of Malabu when it was being incorporated, denied having any dealings with Mr Adoke over the $1.1 billion deal.
Mr Adamu had earlier testified in the case as a prosecution witness confirming that he brought Mr Jabu in the registration of Malabu.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, who newly took over the case from the former prosecutor, Mr Jabu told the court that he served as the non-executive chairman of the Malabu for two years and later as the managing director for another year.
He said he sold his 20 per cent shares in the company which was valued at €400 million for $5 million to Pecos Energy Limited, a deal he said was finalised in London sometimes in 2011.
“I knew Mr Adamu back in 1958. He was my school prefect. He called me sometime in 1998 from the USA that Dan Etete wants me to be a shareholder in a company, and promised I would own a stake of 20 per cent in the company.
“He also asked me to go see Rasky Gbinigie, a lawyer, who was the company secretary and legal. When I got to Mr Gbinigie’s office located at 35 Kingsway Ikoyi Lagos State he told me that Mr Etete had already informed him about my coming and he also informed me that I would have a share of 20 per cent in the company. That was how I know Mr Gbinigie,” Mr Jabu said.
When asked by the prosecution who the remaining owners of the 80 per cent stake in the company were, the witness stated that he was never notified about the other shareholders.
Under cross-examination, the second defendant’s lawyer, Adeyemi Shekoni, asked Mr Jabu where he worked before being called to become a shareholder in Malabu Oil and Gas. The witness stated that he was the MD of Niger Brass Company, a shipping firm.
The lawyer asked if the agreement where he sold off his shares from Malabu Oil and Gas was a “Settlement Agreement”. Mr Jabu responded in the affirmative.
The defence lawyer later presented a copy of the “Settlement Agreement” to the court and the witness.
After studying the document, Mr Jabu said that he was unfamiliar with several of the signatories listed in the paperwork.
“When I signed these documents, the signatures were not present,” he said.
The witness further told the courts that the document looked different from what he signed.
When the document was presented to the prosecuting lawyer, Mr Uket objected to the admissibility of the document on the grounds that he did not have prior knowledge of it.
The judge, Mr Kutigi, also noted the need for the defence lawyer to have served the prosecution with the document before trying to tender it as an exhibit.
He asked the lawyer to provide legal authority for the admissibility of the document, as the document was not primary and original but a photocopy.
In response, the defence lawyer said “the original has been destroyed and lost” and cited section 89(c) of the Evidence Act to argue for its admissibility.
The judge ruled that the document was inadmissible.
He later adjourned the matter until May 31, 2022, for continuation of trial.
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