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$1.1bn Malabo Fraud: Shell, Eni May Lose OPL 245

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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.

Rivers State Commissioner for Youth Development, Mr Princewill Ogbubula (middle), with Director, Enterprise Development, Ministry of Youth Development, Dr Festus Ugwuzuo (right), Okitche Womuru (2nd right) and Mrs Rhuoma Kejeh, during an interactive session with youth of the state in Port Harcourt, recently.

Rivers State Commissioner for Youth Development, Mr Princewill Ogbubula (middle), with Director, Enterprise Development, Ministry of Youth Development, Dr Festus Ugwuzuo (right), Okitche Womuru (2nd right) and Mrs Rhuoma Kejeh, during an interactive session with youth of the state in Port Harcourt, recently.

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Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow

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The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.

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Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.

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$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others

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The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.

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