Malabu Scandal: Hearing of applications on ownership of oil licence stalled

Dan-Etete-Nigerias-former-minister-of-petroleum-resources
Nigeria's former Minster of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete

Hearing into various applications on the ownership of a major oil block, OPL 245, was stalled on Monday, following inability to serve counsel the hearing notice.

Separate applications regarding the internal structure of OPL 245 came up on Monday at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, venue of the matter.

Counsel representing the son of former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, requested an adjournment of the matter to allow for service of hearing notices on the first, second, third, sixth and seventh defendants.

Mr. Abacha had approached the court to stop the sale of a $13.5 billion deep water Zabazaba project located in the controversial oil block, OPL 245.

The counsel, Reuben Atabo, who noted that several adjournments had been granted on the matter, however craved the indulgence of the court for a further postponement on the ground that the other defendants may not have been informed of the December 4 date for hearing of respondents briefs.

“To allow for fair hearing, a further adjournment should be granted,” Mr. Atabo said.

The case was adjourned till February 13, 2018 for hearing of respondents’ briefs.

BACKGROUND

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.

Mohammed Abacha owned 50 per cent shares of the company at inception.

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.

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 using his pseudonym, Amafegha, owns the remaining 30 per cent.


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