An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday adjourned hearing into an application filed by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited against the Nigerian government and other respondents till October 31.
The case which was filed by Mohammed Abacha, son of late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha, on behalf of Malabu had been adjourned in May for hearing on Wednesday but was further shifted because the court failed to sit.
Mr. Abacha is challenging the return of Oil Prospecting Licence; OPL 245, to Shell and AGIP exploration companies by the Federal Government in 2011.
He is asking the court to declare the initial transfer of the oil well to Shell and AGIP as null and void.
His grounds are that he was an original co-owner of Malabu when it was controversially awarded the lucrative oil block in 1998 during his father’s military regime, but that he was illegally excluded when the company transferred the oil well to the two multinational oil companies.
But in a preliminary objection filed at the previous sitting, the federal government said Malabu’s ownership of the oil well ended in April 2011.
Those listed as respondents in the suit are the Federal Government, the Minister of 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 a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete.
A court order in January transferring the ownership of the oil well from Shell and AGIP to the Federal Government was revoked in March.
OPL 245, regarded as one of Africa’s richest oil blocks with an estimated over nine billion barrels of crude, was controversially awarded to Malabu in 1998 by the then petroleum minister, Mr. 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 $1.1billion paid for it ending up in private pockets, including those of some Nigerian government officials.
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.