The Federal Government said on Thursday that it had no conclusive position on the controversial $1.1bn award of Oil Prospecting Licence 245, better known as ‘Malabu Oil Deal.’
It said it had launched an ongoing investigation into the deal and would not take a position until all the “complexities” in the deal had been resolved.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), gave the government’s position when he appeared before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives in Abuja.
The committee, which is chaired by an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Kwara State, Mr. Razak Atunwa, has the mandate of the House to reopen investigation into the controversial sale of the oil block.
The development came as the House Committee on Financial Crimes chaired by Mr. Oladele Kayode, said the Proceeds of Crime Bill would be given accelerated attention by the House to strengthen the fight against financial crimes.
Malami stated that there were many “national and international litigations” arising from the series of transactions involving parties to OPL 245.
According to him, the Federal Government, Shell, Malabu Oil and Gas, Agip and many individuals had at one point or another, entered into litigation and agreements on the deal.
For example, he revealed that within Malabu Oil itself, there were divided interests, such that it was difficult to ascertain which of the interests signed what agreement.
“We have multiple contentions. There is Mohammed Abacha, we have Dan Etete, Atiku Abubakar, Hassan Adamu; they are all laying claims to entities,” he told the committee.
The AGF also said, in the “chequered history” of the oil well since 1998, the Federal Government revoked the licence and re-awarded it many times.
“So, whatever I am providing to this committee is provisional. The investigation is ongoing and it is not conclusive.
“There are many areas to look at. We will take a comprehensive position and revert to the committee as soon as possible,” he added.
However, Malami admitted that some information being investigated indicated that there had been alleged “irregularities.”
But Shell through its lawyer, Mr. Richard Akinjide, had since written to challenge the jurisdiction of the committee to investigate the deal on the grounds of the many litigations surrounding it.
The committee had noted that the “lucrative OPL 245 occupies an area of 1,958 square kilometres and holds up to 9.2 billion barrels of crude oil.”
Recalling how the deal started, the committee said Chief Dan Etete, a former minister under the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, awarded the block to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas.
“He awarded it to himself for just $20m, out which he paid only $2m,” the committee stated.
It added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the deal, but it was later sold to Shell at $210m, a development, which sparked off a series of legal tussles.
The committee recalled that while Malabu was still in court, a former AGF, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, were alleged to have “contrived a series of complex agreements of a questionable nature.”
Etete said, “The summary of the agreement was that Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1bn to the Federal Government for the oil block.”
However, instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, the committee stated that Adoke and Alison-Madueke “caused the money to be transferred to Malabu, which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.
“In this regard, it is alleged that companies such as AA Oil Ltd. were engaged to launder the funds.”
Already, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission appeared before the committee and assured lawmakers of its readiness to offer available information to support the investigation by the House.
Meanwhile, at a separate session with the Kayode committee, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit was given the assurance that the House would pass the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
Kayode spoke after the Director of the Unit, Mr. Francis Usami, urged the House to pass the bill and the Mutual Legal Assurance Bill, both which would facilitate the speedy disposal of money laundering investigations.
However, Kayode made the point that the unit was domiciled in the EFCC to ensure that “they are not compromised or exposed to litigation.”