By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA—MANY Nigerians were stunned, yesterday, as experts, who analysed the terms and conditions covering the sale of the controversial Oil Prospecting Lease, OPL 245, otherwise known as Malabu Oil Block, to Shell and Eni, revealed that Nigeria will lose between $6 billion and N10 billion to the deal, which is now being investigated outside Nigeria.
The study, which was prepared by Resources for Development Consulting for Global Witness, was formally presented in Abuja in the presence of the other partners in the project-HEDA, Re: Common and Corner House.
Dr. Don Hubert, who presented the report, which has been presented to the National Assembly, pointed out that at least one third of the value of the oil block, which comes from fiscal concessions in the 2011 Resolution Agreement, RA, between Nigeria and the operators of the block, essentially takes away oil profit from the government and the Nigerian people.
“The 2011 RA will result in the loss of revenue to the Nigerian people and government to the tune of at least $4.5 billion,” the report concluded.
But shortly before the report was presented, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Mr. Kayode Olalele, said the probe of the sale of the lucrative oil block and the unjustifiable payment of $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI to the former oil minister, had established the fact that the payment was unjustified and that Nigeria was ripped off in the deal.
Olalele said: “As you may recollect, the House of Representatives in February 2014, ordered the cancellation of the sale of a lucrative oil block, OPL 245 to oil firms in what was considered a shady deal facilitated with the payment of $1.1 billion to a former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.’’
At the same event, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Recovery of Public Asset, Mr. Okoi Obla-Obono expressed disappointment over the refusal of a major oil firm in Nigeria to remit whopping revenue of $1.9 billion to the federal government and promised to take steps to recover the amount from the oil company.
Obla-Obono also accused the oil company of evading payment of taxes to the federal government.
The chairman equally disclosed that an influential Nigerian politician was being investigated for operating no fewer than 20 companies in British Virgin Island, a tax haven, all in a bid to evade tax payment to Nigeria.
He further threatened to move against commercial banks, which received the sum of $7 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria as bailout cash in 2006 but had refused to refund the money to the public coffers many years after the loan was given to them. He did not however name the recalcitrant banks.
The Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, Olarewaju Suraju, one of the partners in the team that produced the findings on the OPL 245, said they prepared the damning finding to enable the Nigerian government identify and punish the individuals and organisations involved in the oil scam and to help stop further pillage of the nation’s oil revenue.
“It is our strong recommendation that the OPL 245 license should be revoked. We now have both economic and legal basis to challenge the deal. It is our view also that all those who were involved in the scam are duly punished and the block revoked and returned to Nigeria,” Suraju stated.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was represented by the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Dr. Garba Abari, applauded the work of the civil society groups which carried out the findings on the oil deal, pointing out that they were in line with the transparency disposition of the present administration.
He said: “Our natural resources must not only be well managed but properly used for the good of the people. This is in sync with the policy of the Buhari administration.
“Government will not rest on its oars until all stolen public wealth is retrieved and used for the people’s welfare irrespective of the legal hurdles. We want to ensure openness and transparency in the management of our resources.
“How can a nation lose $6 billion in a single fraudulent deal? We can just imagine what the nation lost in similar scams over the years.’’