Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. has asked an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to stop the sale of a $13. 5 billion deep water project located in the controversial oil block, OPL 245.
The OPL 245, regarded as one of Africa’s richest oil blocks with an estimated over 9 billion barrels of crude, was controversially awarded to Malabu in 1998 by the then petroleum minister, Dan Etete who partly owned the company through a fictional character, Kwekwu Amafegha.
The block was controversially sold to oil giants, Shell and ENI, in 2011 with a large chunk of the $1.1 billion paid ending up in private pockets including those of Mr. Etete.
The matter has already led to indictments of shell, ENI, Mr. Etete and others in Italy and Nigeria while investigations are ongoing in other countries. On Monday, Shell admitted it knew part of the $1.1 billion it and ENI paid for the block would end up with Mr. Etete, who was convicted for money laundering in France.
While Mr. Etete negotiated the 2011 deal on behalf of Malabu, and received about $801 million of the payment; he did so without the consent of the majority shareholders of Malabu including Mohammed Abacha, who since inception when his father, Sani Abacha, was Nigeria’s military dictator, owned 50 per cent of the block. PECOS, a company believed to be owned by businessman Oyewole Fasawe owns another 20 per cent of the company while Mr. Etete’s pseudonym, Amafegha, owns the remaining 30 per cent.
On Tuesday, the counsel representing Malabu, J. A Achimugu asked the court to stop Shell Nigeria, as well as Agip exploration Ltd from signing the Final Purchase Agreement, F.I.D for the Zabazaba deep water project.
Mr. Achimugu also asked the court to issue an order preventing the Nigerian government from retaking control of the OPL 245, till the determination of the matter in court.
According to the suit filed before Justice John Tsoho, the applicant asked the court to stop the respondents from carrying out any other action in furtherance of the prospective sale of the project.
The court was also asked to stop the respondents from acting with the motive of sourcing oil in the location covered by Zabazaba Deep water and /or Etan oil fields within the oil OPL 245.
The application, contained a 29-paragraph affidavit was filed on behalf of Mohammed Abacha as a shareholder of Malabu.
According to the application, Mr. Abacha said he became privy to the alleged illegal sale following a publication on This Day Newspaper with the caption: “FG, Shell, Agip to sign FID for $13.5bn Zabazaba Deep water project in Q22017.”
Mr. Achumugu asked the court to stop the proposed agreement, stressing that his client was never part of the process, despite being the major owner of the OPL 245.
The judge, John Tsoho asked the plaintiff to serve the respondents with the notice of the application and adjourned the matter till May 18, for hearing of the motion.
Those listed as respondents in the suit are the federal government, the Minister Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd; Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Ltd; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; and Mr. Etete.