By Sebastine Obasi, Emman Ovuakporie, Mike Eboh, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
We’re not aware of bid to summon Jonathan – Reps Minority Leader, C’ttee member
I’ve no foreign account, didn’t receive $200m bribe — Jonathan
Malabu asks court to stop FG from signing $13.5bn Zabazaba Deep Water project
LAGOS — Royal Dutch Shell, yesterday, admitted paying money to Malabu Oil and Gas for rights to oil bloc, OML 245.
Malabu is owned by former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete.
This came as controversy, yesterday, trailed plans by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice probing the Malabu deal to summon former President Goodluck Jonathan to testify before the ad-hoc panel investigating the deal.
Former President Jonathan, however, in a statement by his spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, denied allegations that he received a bribe of $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu oil deal.
Also yesterday, a Federal High Court in Abuja, fixed May 18 to hear a motion seeking to stop the Federal Government from entering into any Final Investment Decision (F.I.D) Agreement with any person in respect of Zabazaba Deep water project located within the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245.
Shell’s admittance is coming after a new evidence, following the corruption probe into its acquisition of the oil bloc, off the coast of Nigeria, indicating that top executives were prepared to press ahead with the deal, despite knowing that most of the money could end up as political bribes.
Shell spokesman, Andy Norman, said the group had known the Federal Government “would compensate Malabu to settle its claim on the bloc.”
The company had previously said its payments from the 2011 deal went to the Federal Government.
According to Norman, while Shell knew that former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, was “involved” with Malabu, it had not confirmed that he controlled the company.
He said: “Over time, it became clear to us that Etete was involved in Malabu and that the only way to resolve the impasse through a negotiated settlement was to engage with Etete and Malabu, whether we liked it or not.”
Norman added that the company believed the settlement was a fully legal transaction with the Federal Government.
The statement came amid mounting pressure over the deal, in which Shell and Italy’s Eni paid $1.3 billion for the rights to offshore bloc, OPL 245, which industry estimates say could hold more than nine billion barrels of oil.
Courts in Nigeria and Italy are still investigating the purchase of the bloc. Italian prosecutors have asked for Eni chief, Claudio Descalzi, to be sent to trial in connection with the case.
Eni had said neither the company nor Descalzi were involved in any allegedly illicit conduct.
Similarly, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the asset temporarily seized in January at the request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, but the move was overturned.
Attempts to contact Etete have been unsuccessful.
On plans to summon President Jonathan to explain what he knew about the deal, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Razaq Atunwa, said his committee found the latest allegations against the former President too compelling to ignore.
Atunwa, who was quoted by online portal, Premium Times, as dropping hint of the summons, said: “We cannot ignore such weighty allegations knowing full well that Nigeria has lost billions of dollars as a result of the numerous complications around the OPL 245 oil field.
“We’ve summoned several former and present top government functionaries, including the Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, to provide information that could help in our investigation and they honoured us.”
He said the committee would inform Nigerians after dispatching its invitation letter to the former president.
However, Minority Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, and a member of the ad-hoc panel investigating the scandal, who preferred anonymity, denied knowledge of the planned summons of the former President.
Ogor, who incidentally chaired a similar committee which investigated the same issue in the 7th Assembly, stated that summoning the former President wouldn’t amount to anything tangible, adding that his report could not find anything against him.
“I’m not aware of any summons or plans to invite the former President. If there is anything to that effect, it will probably be a bit out of place except he/she is not aware of the whole Malabu deal and how Malabu came about.
“First, I was the person who investigated Malabu in the 7th Assembly and I know what happened with Malabu clearly as I can remember.
“So if anybody wants to invite Jonathan with regards to Malabu, there are processes he must follow and the result in the end will be totally inconsequential in the sense that Jonathan was not involved in the sale of that particular oil bloc, though, he was the President.
‘’If you want to find out who was involved, you can ask the Minister of Petroleum at that time, the Attorney-General of the Federation at that time, and also ask Shell and Agip.
“There are fundamental questions. The main fundamental question is how did Shell become a part owner of that bloc? Agip that did not participate in the bidding process, how did it come about parting with a huge amount of money? You see, these are the things you must find out before drawing necessary conclusions.
‘’I’ll wait for that report, but I can I tell you categorically that because I did that investigation, I know that Jonathan is as good as a saint in that whole transaction,” Ogor explained.
Asked if a committee had the rights to summon a former President without clearing with the leadership of the House, he said the Constitution gave them the powers to summon anybody who had a query to answer.
“By Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution, yes, you can summon anybody. But I believe also that as a former President, we can pay him that respect. You know, you can probably arrange to go and meet him at the committee level. You cannot just summon him to come to the House, you will be showing disrespect to his person, he’s your former President, and any President, whether former or sitting, must be given his presidential respect.
‘’So I believe that publication must be something imaginary. But whatever it is, I believe there is nothing impossible, let us watch and see how it goes and we will be able to address them. Let’s take them step by step,” he added.
Also reacting, a member of the committee who doesn’t want his name mentioned, stated that members of the committee were not aware of any move to summon the former President.
‘’A former President is not somebody you can just wake up and summon, even though the constitution empowers you to do so. In Nigeria, there is order of respect and protocol regarding our former leaders no matter what, the lawmaker said. \
Jonathan denies receiving $200m bribe
Meanwhile, Jonathan, yesterday, denied claims that he received a bribe of $200 million as proceeds from Malabu oil deal.
The former president, in a statement by his Media Adviser, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the allegation against him was sponsored by those threatened by his rising profile in the international community.
Eze reiterated the fact that while in and out of office, President Jonathan did not open and didn’t own any bank account, aircraft or real estate outside Nigeria, adding that anyone with contrary information should publish same.
Eze said: “Common sense should have shown the purveyors of this slander that the Malabu oil deal far predated the Jonathan regime and it would only make sense for him to be bribed if he had a time machine to go back in time to when the deal was struck.
“The report relied on hearsay evidence from a man who provided no substance to back up his false claim. The man quoted by the report said he ‘assumed’ that Dr. Jonathan would be bribed.
“Since when has assumption been enough to smear the reputation of a patriot and international statesman like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan?”
Eze further stated that the report wrongly claimed that Jonathan and Etete had known each other for years, when Jonathan served as a tutor to Etete’s children while he was a minister.
He said: “This claim is clearly ridiculous and nothing can be further from the truth. In the first place, the former President couldn’t have been a ‘tutor’ to Etete’s children without first establishing contact with the family.
“This is because Jonathan met Etete, who served as the Petroleum Minister in General Abacha’s military regime, for the first time under the succeeding civilian administration, when he was already the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. Even then, the fact remains that ex-President Jonathan has never met any of Etete’s children.
“Besides, Jonathan couldn’t have been anybody’s private tutor during that period, because he was already in the directorate cadre in Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC (now NDDC), having already left the academia, at the time Etete was a serving minister.”
Eze explained that the series of fake and fallacious stories were deliberately contrived for reasons that were yet to be publicly disclosed, adding that stories apparently intended to rubbish Jonathan’s name locally and internationally were being recycled with more lies added to garnish the narrative, and coming at a time the ex-President was making efforts to resolve the issues in People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
“Jonathan appeals to the media to report facts rather than innuendo and gossip. He asks that the media ought to remember that he signed the Freedom of Information Act into law and it is only fair to use it to investigate allegations and establish the truth.
Malabu’s case against FG
In a related development, the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed May 18 to hear a motion seeking to stop the Federal Government from entering into any Final Investment Decision (F.I.D) Agreement with any person in respect of Zabazaba Deep water project located within the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245.
The motion on notice, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/201/2017, was filed before the court by Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
Aside from the Federal Government, other Defendants/Respondents in the suit are the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production company Ltd, Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Ltd, EFCC and Chief Dan Etete.
The applicants specifically prayed the court to stop the defendants from going ahead with their plan to sign a $13.5billion Zabazaba Deep water project agreement within the second quarter of this year.
It urged the court to grant interlocutory reliefs barring such agreement since the project would be located within OPL 245, which is still a subject of litigation.
Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd equally applied for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining FG and the Minister of Petroleum Resources from considering to revoke or revoking the re-allocation of OPL 245 granted to it by virtue of the 1st & 2nd defendants’ letter of July 2, 2010, pending the determination of this suit.
The applicant’s counsel, Mr. J.A. Achimugwu, said the motion was triggered by media publications indicating that FG and Shell are negotiating to sign F.I.D for the $13.5billion Zabazaba Deep water Project located in the disputed oil bloc.
Meanwhile, Justice John Tsoho fixed May 18 to hear the motion, even as he granted the applicant leave to serve the Writ of Summons and relevant processes on Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited at its office situated at No. 21 and 22 Marina Avenue, Lagos.
The applicants are, among others, seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining each and all the defendants/respondents by themselves, their servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from offering for sale, selling, mortgaging or in any form whatsoever alienate and / or grant any oil Prospecting Licence or lease to any other person or persons in respect of Zabazaba Deep water and /or Etan oil fields located within the area of the oil prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) the subject matter of this suit, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st & 2nd defendants/respondents (Federal government and the Minister Petroleum Resources) by themselves, their Servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from entering into any form of agreement with the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants/ Respondents or with any third parties to prospect for and / or explore for Oil/ petroleum products within the area covered by Zabazaba Deep water and /or Etan oil fields within the area covered by the oil prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st & 2nd defendants/respondents by themselves, their Servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from considering to revoke or revoking the re- allocation of OPL 245 granted to the applicant by virtue of the 1st & 2nd defendants’ letter of July 2, 2010 pending the determination of this suit”.
In a 29-paragraph affidavit attached in support of the motion, son of late former Head of State, Mohammed Sani Abacha, told the court that he owns 50% of the share capital of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and have been very much involved in the affairs of the firm.
Mohammed averred that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd applied for Oil prospecting licence (OPL) and was granted same by the Minister of Petroleum Resources (2nd respondent) on April 29, 1998 via a letter of the allocation of OPL 245.
He said that in pursuance of the allocation of OPL 245 to the firm, the plaintiff made payments of N50,000, as application fees, $10, 000 as bid processing fees and part payment of or a deposit payment of $2, 40,000 as signature bonus.
He said that on July 2, 2001, the Federal government and Minister of Petroleum Resources revoked the licence for the oil bloc it granted to the plaintiff.
Mohammed stated that the plaintiff sued FG at the Federal High Court over the said revocation of OPL 245 but the matter was subsequently resolved through an out of court settlement agreement by the parties.
“That it was common understanding between the plaintiff and the Federal government in the out of court settlement agreement that the Federal government would re- allocate the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) to the plaintiff.
“That while the re-allocation to the plaintiff OPL 245 was subsisting, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th defendants and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation surreptitiously entered into what they called block 245 resolution agreement dated April 29, 2011, wherein the defendants agreed inter alia that the Federal government shall allocate Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) to Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited and Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Ltd. (4th and 5th) defendants, without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiff.
“That the plaintiff was never a party to Block 245 resolution agreement purporting to require the plaintiff to relinquish it’s rights and interest in OPL 245 to any defendants.
“That the plaintiff had sourced for and entered into contractual agreement with its technical partners for the effectual realisation of OPL 245 and unless the defendants are restrained, the applicant will be forced thereby to breach contractual agreements with its technical partners and thereby lose its international business goodwill and reputation,” he added.