Different counsel claimed to represent Malabu in court.
An ex-convict and former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, using his controversial firm, Malabu Oil and Gas, has sued the House of Representatives over its decision to cancel the sale of the OPL 245 oil bloc.
Mr. Etete’s Malabu wants the court, presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, to declare null and void, the resolution of the House on the controversial bloc which Malabu Oil sold to two multi-national firms, Shell and Agip.
The House of Representatives had resolved that the federal government retrieve the oil bloc, reputed to hold over seven billion barrels of crude oil.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Mr. Etete, using a false non-existent name, Kweku Amafegha, and in violation of existing laws, registered Malabu and days later in 1998, while serving as petroleum minister, awarded one of Nigeria’s lucrative oil blocs to it.
Malabu had then in more dubious circumstances including roles played by officials of the Presidential Goodluck Jonathan administration, sold the oil bloc to Shell and Agip for $1.1 billion.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, authorised the transfer of the money, paid by Shell and Agip to a Nigerian government account, to two Malabu accounts days before the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was to resume.
Earlier investigations by PREMIUM TIMES showed how the transaction violated Nigerian laws and how Malabu, using accounts controlled by Mr. Etete, transferred the monies to various accounts owned by non-existent and shady characters.
Upon investigation by the House of Reps, the lawmakers asked that the sale to the two international oil firms be reversed while anti-graft agencies investigate Mr. Etete and Malabu for possible illegalities and prosecute them if found wanting.
Apparently dissatisfied with the House recommendation, which has been communicated to the president, Mr. Etete, through Malabu, which he controls, has now challenged it.
Other shareholders of Malabu, who had raised objection to the sale of the oil bloc, however challenged his hired lawyer in court.
The court drama
There was drama at the Federal High Court on Monday as two different lawyers appeared for Malabu.
M.A. Magaji and Reuben Atabo claimed they both independently represent Malabu.
Both claimed to have been hired by Malabu.
While Mr. Atabo claimed to have been hired by two Malabu shareholders, Mr. Magaji declined to disclose to PREMIUM TIMES, the person who hired him, simply saying he was hired by Malabu.
Mr. Magaji is believed to have been hired by Mr. Etete.
The shareholders of Malabu during registration in 1998 were Mohammed Abacha, the son of late military dictator, Sani Abacha, (10million shares); Kweku Amafegha (the fictional character created by Mr. Etete) with 6 million shares; and Wabi Hassan (wife of Hassan Adamu, former Nigerian ambassador to the US) with 4 million shares.
The Hassan shares were sold to Pecos Energy Limited, owned by controversial businessman, Oyewole Fasawe.
Mr. Atabo said he was hired by Pecos and Mr. Abacha.
Following the disagreement, Mr. Magaji asked for an adjournment to allow the counsel sort out the rightful appearance for the plaintiff.
The five respondents in the suit are the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Leo Ogor- who chaired the House committee that investigated the deal, and the Attorney General of the Federation.
All the defendants were represented except the Attorney General.
Following an agreement by the counsel present, Justice Ahmed Mohammed agreed to Mr. Magaji’s plea.
“I will give you enough time to sort out the issue of who should legally represent the plaintiff,” Mr. Mohammed said.
He adjourned the case to July 8.
While reacting to the court case, Mr. Fasawe told PREMIUM TIMES that he was against the suit and was not in support of any plan to oppose the report of the National Assembly.
He said he and Mr. Abacha are in support of the report by the lawmakers.
“We are not challenging the report, we are not against what the National Assembly did and we did not instruct any lawyer to challenge their power against report,” he said. “We are in total agreement of the entire report, we want to maintain the Malabu Oil and Gas and the Board of Directors have made a resolution that all document belonging to it be returned as we have also agreed to work with Shell.”
Mr. Magaji, however, claimed there was only one Malabu and he was its true counsel.
“No no no! There is just one Malabu; there’s only one existing Malabu Oil and Gas. If there is anybody challenging our competence, the person should come out.
“We could have gone on with the case but we have agreed within ourselves to sort some of the legal issues out first,” Mr. Magaji said.
Also speaking on the disagreement among the plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Atabo said, “Just like the judge pointed out, we need a long time to sort out the issue of legal representation.”
“Malabu Oil and Gas has three directors that constitute the board.
“Mohammed Sani is one of the Directors, Pecos energy represented by Otunba Fasawe is another director; and there was no authorization for the commencement of action, out of three board members only one person cannot without due confirmation with others institutes an action and the policy is that out of three, before you can commence action you need leave directed by the directors.
“Those are the issues we need to sort out,” Mr. Atabo said.
He also said that the time given by the judge will enable them sort out issues like “where did the other party (counsel) got the authorization to commence the action?”
He said the suit might be discontinued once things are sorted out.