The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating alleged corruption, malpractices and breach of due process in the award of OPL 245 yesterday reopened its investigation.
The seventh House’s report on the matter was never presented. The 8th House resolved on January 27 to re-open the investigation.
Members of the committee, seeking to highlight how $1.1 billion meant for the Federation Account was ispirited away, expressed shock that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), AA Oil and Gas and Malabu Oil shunned the meeting.
But from the beginning of the investigative session the committee was at variance with the position of Shell, particularly the letter written by Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) to the committee on behalf of the oil giant that the House had no power to investigate the matter.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), represented by Mr.Aliyu Yusuf, said the Commission had no brief on the matter. But the EFCC was given two weeks to make its submission.
Committee Chairman Rasak Atunwa pledged that his team would get to the end of the matter “ no matter whose feathers are ruffled.”
The lawmaker said $1.1 billion meant for the government was cornered by some former ministers.
A former minister is likely to be declared wanted in connection with the ongoing probe of $1.092b Malabu oil deal, it was learnt yesterday.
A businessman and three others are to be arraigned over the deal.
The charges against the suspects are being prepared.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is seeking the whereabouts of $1,092,040billion paid by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited (SNEPCO) and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (NAE) into an escrow account.
Those implicated are six former ministers under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, a former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance who generated a memo in 2011 for Dr. Jonathan to approve the transaction, a former Head of State, former President of the Senate, a former National Security Adviser, some senators, and some serving and former members of the House of Representatives.
A source said: “We are almost concluding investigation into Malabu Oil deal. The charges against a top businessman and a few others implicated in the deal are ready. We only need to tidy up a few ends.
“One of the former ministers who played a key role in the auctioning of the oil block has been evasive.
“We now have no choice than to declare the ex-minister wanted. The EFCC cannot keep on waiting for this former public officer.
“An advantage we have is that the ex-minister has been located in some jurisdictions where we can easily request for his arrest or extradition.
“We need the former minister to address how to recover the $85million in a NatWest Bank account.
“The cash was part of the $1,092,040billion paid into an escrow account by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited (SNEPCO) and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (NAE).”
The ruling of a judge in London in December left some windows for investigation.
Justice Edis of the Southwark Crown Court, London, on December 14, 2015 stopped the payment of N17billion to Malabu Oil and Company.
The judge said he was “not sure that the Goodluck Jonathan administration acted in the interest of Nigeria by approving the transfer of the money to Malabu.
He said: “I cannot simply assume that the FGN which was in power in 2011 and subsequently until 2015 rigorously defended the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects.”
By the terms of Block 245 Resolution Agreement, Shell agreed to the release of the outstanding Signature Bonus and to appoint an escrow agent for the purpose of paying to FGN a sum of $1,092,040billion.
It was learnt that $982,040,000 was the total contribution of NAE to the settlement but SNEPCO contributed $110,000,000 to make up the required $1,092,040billion for the purpose of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) settling all and any existing claims and or issues over OPL 245 in accordance with the agreement.
There were fears that the $1,092,040billion in an Escrow Account was “used for the settlement of the FGN-Malabu Oil Limited agreement on OPL 245”.
The EFCC was said to be trying to unravel whether or not the cash was paid to the government or if the appointed escrow agent managed the $1,092,040billion and shared to some beneficiaries for the settlement of dispute between the government and Malabu Oil Limited.
A memo submitted to International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes by SNUD gave further details. Shell said: “In 1998, during the President Abacha military regime, OPL 245 had been allocated to Malabu on behalf of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources by Mr. Dan Etete in his capacity as the then Presidential Advisor on Petroleum and Energy. Malabu was an indigenous Nigerian company, incorporated on 24 April 1999, with Nigerian shareholders, apparently for the purpose of petroleum prospecting.
“In March 2000, Malabu approached Shell within a farm-in proposal. Malabu was looking for an international oil company to take a 40% equity stake in the OPL 245 licence itself and ‘carry’ Malabu in developing the block i.e. the international oil company would take all the exploration and development risk by funding Malabu’s share of the costs (including the acquisition, exploration and development costs of the block) as well as its own.
“Those costs would then be recovered by the international oil company from Malabu’s share oil production.”