Malabu $1.1bn fraud: Senate to finally begin probe

Dan Etete

The Senate had agreed to probe the deal last year.

Over one year after  the Federal Government agreed to investigate what appears a fraudulent transfer of almost $1.1 billion to a shady oil firm, Malabu, the Senate on Thursday mandated two of its committees to commence the probe.

The Senate had on July 17 last year agreed to probe the controversial deal involving the sale of an oil bloc, OPL 245 following a motion by Senator Abdul Ningi.

Mr. Ningi, citing media reports, largely by PREMIUM TIMES, argued that the deal appeared fraudulent and asked the Senate to investigate it.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Shell and ENi paid the $1.1 billion into Nigeria’s foreign account for the oil bloc. The government later transferred most of the funds to Malabu Oil and Gas, whose account is controlled by convicted money launderer, Dan Etete. The oil bloc was formerly disputed between Malabu and the international oil companies, while the government’s transfer of the money was authorised by Attorney General Mohammed Adoke and Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama.

Previous investigations by PREMIUM TIMES had shown how Malabu was fraudulently formed in 1998 and how Mr. Etete, as petroleum minister, awarded the oil bloc to the company in 1998. Further investigations also showed that the moneys were later transferred by Malabu to shady and non-existent companies with a large chunk of it (over $500 million) transferred to the accounts of controversial businessman, Abubakar Aliyu. Mr. Aliyu has indirect links to President Goodluck Jonathan and is known to do shady deals for top stalwarts of Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party.

While the Senate and the House agreed to investigate the oil deal last year, the Senate shelved its responsibility, while a House Committee conducted a seemingly incomplete investigation and submitted its report to the whole House.

Sources had told PREMIUM TIMES that the Senate shied from the investigation because of pressure from the presidency and senators loyal to the presidency.

However, on Thursday, the Senate mandated its Committees on Petroleum (Upstream) and Finance to investigate the whole Malabu/ OPL 245 deal.

The Senate President, David Mark, admitted on Thursday that the Senate “stopped short of naming the committees that would investigate the issue when we took the motion (last year).”

Mr. Mark then directed the committees on petroleum (Upstream) and finance to conduct the probe saying “the Committee on Petroleum will lead.”

The Senate also yesterday commenced a recess that would last till September. The committees can, however, choose to commence their probe during the recess or wait till the recess is over.

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