DECEMBER 29, 2016 – A United Kingdom anti-corruption group, Global Witness, has alleged that about $523million of the $1.1billion paid by Shell and Eni for Malabu Oil Block (OPL 245) went to some fronts of a former President.
It said the deal deprived the country of a sum equivalent to 80% of its 2015 health budget in a country where more than 60% of the population live in poverty.
The group made the disclosures in a statement by its Director, Simon Taylor.
It also wrote a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not to waiver in its determination to probe the sale of the oil block.
But Global Witness said prosecutors in the UK have alleged that about $523million out of $1.1billion was paid to the fronts of a former President.
The statement said: “We applaud the Nigerian authorities for fighting back against corruption without fear or favour, making sure there are real consequences for taking part in shady deals like with OPL 245.”
“The lucrative OPL 245 oil block was allocated in 1998 for $20m – a fraction of its value now – to Malabu Oil & Gas, a company secretly owned by the then oil Minister, Etete.
“The OPL 245 block, off the coast of Nigeria is owned 50-50 by Shell and Eni and contains probable reserves of 9.23 billion barrels of oil, representing potentially massive bookable reserves for the companies.
“Shell currently holds 11.75 billion barrels of proven oil equivalent reserves and Eni holds 6.89 billion barrels of proven oil equivalent reserves.
“The block was eventually passed on to Shell and Eni in 2011 in exchange for a payment of $1.1bn which flowed to Malabu rather than to the Nigerian state.
“The former Minister of Justice, Adoke by his own account acted as a broker in the deal. This deal deprived the country of a sum equivalent to 80 per cent of its 2015 health budget in a country where more than 60 per cent of the population live in poverty.
”Shell and Eni have always denied that they knew the money they paid would go to Malabu, but documents seen by Global Witness show that the companies in fact constructed the deal knowing that the money would flow ultimately to Malabu.
“Prosecutors in the UK have previously alleged that $523m of Shell and Eni’s payment went to alleged “fronts for former President of Nigeria (names withheld) as part of a deal that was effectively a “smash and grab” on Nigeria.
In a separate letter, the group praised the Acting EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for the “sterling investigatory work” by the commission on the Malabu oil deal.
The letter said Global witness was “ delighted to read press reports that Adoke, Etete and others have been implicated by the EFCC for fraud and money laundering in respect of the OPL 245 oil deal.
The letter added: “We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our admiration for the sterling investigatory work by the EFCC, under your leadership, that has brought this case to court.
“We believe that the case will send a powerful message to the world that Nigeria is intent on prosecuting corruption without fear or favour.”
The anti-corruption group however noted the reactions of some key actors in the Settlement Agreement on the oil block.
It added: “In a statement, Mohammed Adoke said: “I hope to at the appropriate time make myself available to defend the charge for what whatever its worth,” he also emphasized that he did not benefit from the deal, which he said saved the government from a breach of contract suit in which Shell was claiming $2 billion.
“He called the charges “orchestrated plans to bring me to public disrepute in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of some powerful interests on revenge mission.”
“Shell has insisted that they did not pay Malabu directly and that all payments went to an escrow account held by the Government of Nigeria.
“In a response to a request for comment from Global Witness in April 2015, Shell said: ‘We do not agree with the premise behind various public statements made by Global Witness about Shell companies in relation to OPL 245.’ It has not responded to more recent requests to comment.
Eni responded to questions on the deal in May 2016 saying: “Independent enquiries and the investigations commissioned by Eni’s Watch Structure and Board of Statutory Auditors from specialized American law firms have found no evidence of illegal conduct on the part of the Company.”
Antonio Tricarico said: “The Italian Government must ask serious questions of the involvement of Senior Eni executives in a deal that has now lead to senior Nigerian officials being charged with criminal offences.”