*Hails FG for confronting corruption headlong
*As Italy moves to try Etete, other
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA— For having the boldness to press criminal charges against former Petroleum and Justice ministers over their involvement in the diversion of $1.1 billion belonging to the Federal Government in the controversial Malabu Oil deal, international anti-graft watchdog, Global Witness, has hailed the Federal Government for its doggedness in confronting corruption headlong.
This came at a time the Italian government indicated intentions to file charges against former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, and others over the deal, according to an online publication, Premium Times.
The agency said it was delighted that a Nigerian government had taken the challenge, which others overlooked, in dragging the individuals and entities implicated in the high profile graft to court to account for their actions.
The United Kingdom-based non-governmental agency said in a letter, signed by Simon Taylor, Global Witness Director, and made available to Vanguard last night, said the action of the Nigerian government had given fresh hope that the monster of corruption would be fought to a standstill.
The agency said: “We were delighted to read press reports that former Attorney General Adoke, Chief Etete and others have been indicted by the EFCC for fraud and money laundering in respect of the OPL 245 oil deal.
“We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our admiration for the sterling investigatory work by the EFCC, under your leadership, that has brought this case to court.
“We believe that the case will send a powerful message to the world that Nigeria is intent on prosecuting corruption without fear or favour.
“We applaud the Nigerian authorities for fighting back against corruption without fear or favour, making sure there are real consequences for taking part in shady deals like with OPL 245.”
In another letter sent to Nigeria, another anti-corruption agency, known as Corner House, said: “This is a great step forward with the Nigerian authorities showing they are serious about tackling corruption.
“European and American law enforcement must also step up by fully cooperating and prosecuting anyone else culpable in this corrupt deal,’’ said Nicholas Hildyard of Corner House.
It will be recalled that the EFCC has on December 16 2016 press a nine-count criminal charge against Etete, Adoke and Aliyu Abubakar, a businessman said to have funneled the cash to other beneficiaries through his companies.
The lucrative OPL 245 oil block was allocated in 1998 for $20 million – a fraction of its value now – to Malabu Oil & Gas, a company secretly owned by the then oil Minister, Etete.
The block was eventually passed on to Shell and Eni in 2011 in exchange for a payment of $1.1 billion which flowed to Malabu rather than to the Nigerian state.
The former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, by his own account, acted as a broker in the deal.
This deal deprived the country of a sum equivalent to 80 per cent of its 2015 health budget in a country where more than 60 per cent of the population live in poverty.
Shell and Eni had always denied that they knew the money they paid would go to Malabu, but documents seen by Global Witness showed that the companies, in fact, constructed the deal, knowing that the money would flow ultimately to Malabu.
Prosecutors in the UK had previously alleged that $523m of Shell and Eni’s payment went to alleged “fronts of a former president.
Shell and Eni are also under investigation by the office of the Public Prosecutor of Milan which has named Dan Etete, Shell, Eni and Eni’s current and former CEOs as suspects.
The OPL 245 block, off the coast of Nigeria, is owned 50-50 by Shell and Eni and contains probable reserves of 9.23 billion barrels of oil, representing potentially massive bookable reserves for the companies.
In a statement, Mohammed Adoke said: “I hope to, at the appropriate time, make myself available to defend the charge for what whatever its worth.”