Revoke OPL 245 Oil LicenseNow Group Urges Buhari  

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Yemisi Izuora 

President Mohammadu Buhari, who also oversees the Petroleum industry has been asked to revoke the controversial OPL 245 oil license already trailed by series of scam allegations in the past more than one decade.

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption, (CSNAC) in a petition to the President urged him to direct the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu to immediately revoke the license which has brought Nigeria in the global light of infamy. 

On Tuesday, the group had led hundreds of demonstrators in Abuja drumming the cancellation of the oil deal. Several people participated in the rally aimed at drawing greater public attention to one of Nigeria’s biggest the oil-sector fraud. The group chastised the Minister of State for Petroleum for lacking the will to deal with high-profile officials involved in the crime. It said the cancellation of the deal remains the only way to prove to Nigerians that no one is above the law and to show the country is determined to sanitise the corruption-riddled oil industry.

 The group listed the following as grounds for cancelation of the oil deal: Malabu’s failure to pay signature bonus within the stipulated period stated in the award letter; incompetence and lack of capacity of Malabu to benefit from the allocation based on criteria for the allocation at the time of original award; the company’s use of fictitious address for registration; and misleading public officers, contrary to several laws and corruption surrounding the 2011 transfer and Resolution Agreements.

Other grounds are the disadvantageous considerations against Nigeria’s interest in the resolution Agreements and the failure of Malabu to pay the signature bonus within stipulated period after the restoration of 2006.

 In the petition signed by CSNAC Chairman, Mr. Suraju and sent to the President, a copy of which was also sent to the Minister of State for Petroleum, the  coalition said it was time to cancel the deal. 

The CSNAC has one hundred and fifty anti corruption organizations, by far the largest of such in West Africa. The OPL 245 is said to be Nigeria’s largest oil field and one of the most lucrative. It has however witnessed series of controversies including allegations that local and international officials have used the deal to swindle Nigerians to the tune of billions of dollars in fraudulent deals spanning years.  Processes filed by the Nigeria government and Italian prosecutors indicted former President Goodluck Jonathan, some public officials in his administration, Italian nationals and oil giants, the Nigerian Agip Exploration, Shell and Eni.

CSNAC said investigations also revealed that former oil minister, who was convicted for money laundering in France, Dan Etete, owns Malabu Oil & Gas. The company was discovered to have been incorporated five days before the oil block was awarded to it in 1998. While trying to cover his link Mr. Etete registered the company with a fictitious director, Kweku Amafegha. The company also listed a fake address on its registration documents. 

Nigerian officials also acted as conduit for the fund after Shell and Eni raised fears over transferring the money directly to Malabu due to Mr. Etete’s earlier conviction in France. These officials facilitated the indirect transfer of the sum of $801 Million to Malabu’s account in Nigeria upon payment of the money by ENI. The former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke and Minister of state for finance, Yerima Ngama were said to have authorized the transfers.

 In the petition to the President, the group stated “The media was awash about six (6) years ago with information on how one of Nigeria’s richest oil field, OPL245 was sold in shady circumstances and more than half of the $1.1 Billion paid to Malabu Oil and Gas for the procurement was consummated through bribe to Nigerian politicians and intermediaries who helped to secure the controversial deal,” Suraju said in the petition.

 It noted that despite overwhelming evidence showing that Shell and Eni are aware that the money would be paid to a character with a shady background, officials of the companies have denied any wrong doing in the affair, even when it was revealed that on the 29th of April, 2011 Eni transferred $1.092 Billion dollars into an escrow account of the Nigerian government at the bank; JP Morgan Chase in London which is not the statutory account of the state but a parallel one.

 It noted that the reports of the Public Prosecutor’s office at the ordinary court of Milan in its notification of completion of preliminary investigations highlighted the role of Eni’s former Chief Executive Officer, Paola Scaroni and his successor Claudio Descalzi and indicted them for alleged international corruption over the scandal. The company’s officials participated in the receipt of proceeds of crimes and even committed money laundering offences against Nigeria. The listed Nigerian officials involved in the deal were former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke, former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, former Attorney General, Christopher Bayo Ojo and former Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah

 CSNAC stated “Following the above narrative, we are aware that the current government in its anti corruption bid through the EFCC has filed charges against some of the high profiled suspects for money laundering offences via charge no: FHC/ABJ/CR/268/20. The Court had also granted an order in favour of the EFCC for the Oil block to be forfeited to Nigerian Government pending the determination of the matter before the Court. Though, the order was later vacated, the initial grant was an indication of the controversy surrounding the deal”

 It observed that Emeka Obi and Gialucia Di Nardo were convicted last September in Milan, in an expedited hearing, of the global prosecution of the OPL245 malabu deal. “Nigerian last April also initiated criminal proceedings against individuals and companies connected with the deal before a UK court and terms the deal “corrupt and disadvantageous to Nigeria’s interest.” Several experts reports have exposed Nigeria’s potential loss to the tune of $5.6 billion if the contract and Resolution Agreements are to be enforced as presently drafted but your ministry and office have maintained such silence in this matter, to the chagrin of many observers”

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