The announcement made last week by the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami at an event in Abuja that the British government had returned to the Nigerian government $85 million dollars out of the looted funds in the shady Malabu oil bloc deal is a welcome development. The Federal Government must however not rest on it’s oars as it must go the whole hog in unraveling all those involved in what many have dubbed as the largest organized crime in the whole of Africa. It must also go ahead to prosecute them in court and recover every single kobo that was looted by these greedy and unpatriotic elements.
It all started in 1998 when the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha decided to increase indigenous participation in the upstream sector of the petroleum industry. Malabu oil and gas owned by the then Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete acquired OPL 245 for $20 million dollars but only made a part payment of $2 million dollars. OPL 245 is an oil field in the Niger Delta that is estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude oil worth about half a trillion dollars thereby making it one of the largest and most lucrative oil blocs in Africa. Malabu brought in Shell as technical partners but the deal was revoked by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo upon assumption of office in 1999. He thereafter proceeded to award the oil bloc to Shell without a public bidding which led to a lengthy court battle between Malabu and Shell before they finally agreed on an out of court settlement. Obasanjo, however returned OPL 245 in 2006 to Malabu. Shell began negotiating directly with Etete in order to acquire OPL 245 shortly after Jonathan assumed power in 2010. Jonathan was a tutor to Etete’s children when Etete was Minister of Petroleum under Abacha. The deal between Etete and Shell was consummated in 2011 when Malabu sold OPL 245 to Shell and Eni for a whopping $1.1 billion dollars. The Nigerian government under Jonathan acted as intermediaries in the sale since such a huge amount of money could not be paid directly to Etete who was a convicted felon in France as at that time. He had earlier been convicted in absential of money laundering in France. However, he was given a State pardon by the French authorities in 2013. Shell and Eni paid $1.1 billion dollars to the Government of Nigeria who subsequently transferred $800 million dollars to Malabu. The transfer was authorized by the then Attorney General of the Federation Mr Muhammed Adoke and Mr Yerima Ngama,the then Minister of State for Finance. Malabu transferred over half of the $80 million dollars it received to several accounts around the world as bribes to politicians in Nigeria who helped facilitate the deal. Politicians who have been allegedly fingered in this deal include Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mohammed Abacha, son of the late maximum dictator and Head of State, General Sani Abacha, the former Attorney General of the Federation Mr Muhammed Adoke and the Former Minister of Finance, Mr Yerima Ngama.
There are three main issues involved in this messy oil deal which i have aptly tagged Malabugate. One, that OPL 245 was sold to Malabu oil in 1998 for a mere pittance. It was sold for $20 million dollars out of which it only paid $2 million dollars. This was for an oil bloc worth several hundreds of billions of dollars. Also, Dan Etete’s award of an oil bloc to a company in which he had substantial interest smacks of nothing but corruption. Two, that the Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan helped transfer such a humongous amount of money to a company owned by a convicted felon in France who bought a valuable national asset at a give away price beggars belief. All the government officials complicit in this deal should be brought to book no matter how powerful or highly placed they might be. Three, the Nigerian government only paid $800 million dollars to Malabu oil leaving a balance of over $200 million dollars. What happened to the remaining $200 million dollars?
These three main issues should be the focus areas of the government as they investigate, prosecute and recover the looted funds in the Malabu oil deal. Otherwise, it is not yet uhuru.