The Federal Government is set to retrieve one of Africa’s richest oil blocs from oil giants, Shell and Eni, if the recommendations of the Office of Director of Public Prosecution are implemented.
Not only will the two oil giants lose OPL 245, should President Muhammadu Buhari approve the recommendations, they will also be fined billions of dollars for illegal activities, including paying money to fraudulent public officials and private citizens in order to secure the bloc.
The retrieval of the controversial oil bloc, estimated to contain about nine billion barrels of crude, as well as placing heavy fines on the oil giants, is contained in a far-reaching recommendation by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed Diri.
The recommendation was at the instance of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who is set to advise the Federal Government on how to proceed on a controversial deal that is being investigated by authorities in four different countries.
In arriving at its recommendations, the DPP committee, which included lawyers from his office, called for the cancellation of the ‘settlement agreement’ that ceded the oil bloc to Shell and Eni.
Made on April 29, 2011, the settlement deal is made up of three different ‘Resolution agreement’ signed by the parties involved in the OPL 245 saga.
The first, titled “BLOCK 245 MALABO RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was signed between representatives of the Federal Government and those of Malabu, which was represented during the discussions by a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.
The second agreement, titled “BLOCK 245 RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was between the Federal Government and officials of Shell and Eni/AGIP; while the third agreement, titled “BLOCK 245 SNUD RESOLUTION AGREEMENT”, was signed by officials of the Federal Government and Shell.
The immediate past attorney general of the federation, Mohammed Adoke, and immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke signed all the agreements on behalf of the Federal Government.
Both are among officials being investigated by Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC), for their roles in the scam.
The agreements saw the transfer of OPL 245, first from the Malabu to the Nigerian government and then from the government to Shell and Eni.
The agreements also effectively cancelled all previous law suits and judgements related to the case.
It was based on these agreements that Shell and Eni paid a total of $1.3 billion into Nigerian government accounts, which as stated in earlier reports, largely ended up in accounts of phoney companies and shady characters.
The committee empanelled by the Attorney General, Malami, recommended that the agreement be cancelled, describing it as “null and void”, and saying it “should not be given any legal effect by the FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria) as doing so would amount to the FGN condoning and perpetuating illegality.”
One of the reasons the panel consider the agreement illegal is that the ex-convict, Etete, had no legal authority to negotiate the agreement on behalf of Malabo as he was not a shareholder of the company nor had the permission of the shareholders to do so.
Also, the oil bloc was awarded to Malabo in furtherance of Nigeria’s policy to encourage local companies and part of the conditions for the award was that “foreign participation interest in the blocks (OPL 245 and 214) shall not exceed 40%, i.e. 60/40 indigenous to foreign;” a fact Shell was aware of but chose to ignore.
The committee also sought the cancellation of the agreement based on a resolution by the last House of Representatives, which called for the cancellation and demanded that Shell be “censured or reprimanded… for its lack of transparency and full disclosure in its bid to acquire OPL 245.”
Also, although Shell and Eni claimed they only struck an agreement with the Federal Government and that they did not know, before the agreement, that the money they paid was going to Malabo, evidence by investigators in Italy and the Nigerian anti-graft agency, EFCC, shows that the oil firms knew the payment was eventually going to Malabu accounts controlled by Etete, a man once convicted for money laundering in France.
Apart from calling for the cancellation of the agreement, the DPP panel also recommended the full recovery of the money paid by Shell and Eni, describing it as “proceed of crime.”
Apart from recommending the withdrawal of the OPL 245 from Shell and Eni and calling for the retrieval of the money, the panel also asked the Federal Government to collaborate with all foreign agencies investigating the deal as well as prosecute all individuals and firms that violated local and international laws in the process.
In its recommendation, the panel also stated that the Federal Government can make “close to $10 billion” from the scandal.
To make the money, the panel recommended that Shell and Eni be fined at least $6.5 billion (five times the $1.3 billion Shell and Eni originally paid in the 2011 block).
This, the panel stated, should be done “in accordance with the relevant provisions of our laws in conformity with international best practices via the appropriate courts (at) home or abroad as the case may be.”
In other words, from the fine and the amount to be retrieved of the $1.3 billion, the government could make about $8 billion.
Also, in asking that the oil bloc be returned to Malabu’s original owners, the panel asked that the necessary licensing fees, transfer fees, signature bonus, and tax be paid by the firm; while 50 per cent of the rights to the bloc should return to Nigeria after three years based on original intent of awarding the bloc.
It would be recalled that Malabu oil block was awarded in 1998 with its shareholders being Mohammed Abacha, son of late military dictator, Sani Abacha, (50 per cent); Kweku Amafegha (the fictional character created by Etete, 30 per cent); and Wabi Hassan (wife of Hassan Adamu, former Nigerian ambassador to the US, 20%).
Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, had argued that the oil bloc ought to return to Nigeria and Malabu’s registration cancelled since it was based on falsehood.
“Section 190 and Section 436 (b) of the Criminal Code Act is applicable to the conduct of the promoter of Malabu, in that a false representation or declaration was made to induce the Corporate Affairs Commission to issue an incorporation certificate,” Ogunye said.
“Owing to the false representation, the Corporate Affairs Commission can approach the Federal High Court under Section 563 of CAMA to seek the withdrawal and cancellation of the Certificate of Incorporation of Malabu.”
The DPP report was to be sent to the Attorney General last week, a source at his office told newsmen, but was delayed due to Malami’s trip with President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Arab Emirates.
The report is about now with both the Solicitor General of the Federation, Taiwo Abidogun, and Malami, with the latter expected to advise President Buhari on the next steps based on the recommendations.
A source at the Presidency told our correspondent that the president was keenly following the matter, and recently received a report on it from the office of the Vice President, who is coordinating the actions of the AGF, EFCC and Petroleum Ministry on the matter.
Both the DPP and the Attorney General, in separate phone interviews, confirmed their offices were working on resolving the OPL 245 issue, but would not comment on the details.
“Malabu is a very sensitive issue, and if there’s any resolution, I will have to get clearance before I can speak to the press on it,” the DPP said.
It was learnt that Shell was already aware of the government’s moves to cancel the agreement, and was lobbying against it.
However, the oil giant’s spokesperson, Precious Okolobo, declined comments on the matter.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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