IT has become evidently clear that the charges preferred against the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke,SAN, cannot stand the test of time. This is against the backdrop of emerging developments from Italian prosecutors who came out with their findings from both within and outside the country without mentioning his name.
While the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which has already charged Adoke before a Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged $1.1b Malabu Oil scam, alleging that the former minister diverted and paid the money into private accounts, as well as illegally transferring over $800m to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, and Etete’s oil firm, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from a Federal Government account, some Italian prosecutors have however come up with a different angle, stating that the it was the former President, Goodluck Jonathan and Mrs . Diezani Alison- Madueke , former Minister of Petroleum Resources that were allegedly involved in the scam which amounted to $ 1 .3 bn.
The Italian prosecutors, who are in court with documents filed last month in Milan, according to AFP, claimed that the Chief Executive of ENI , Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, met Jonathan “ in person ” to thrash out the deal, which also involved former British intelligence agents working as advisors for Shell .
The prosecutors also alleged that another $54m was withdrawn by one Abubakar Aliyu, whom the prosecutors described as an “agent” of Jonathan .
According to the prosecutors in their court papers, the beneficiaries of the money went on a shopping spree buying “property, aeroplanes, armoured cars”
In the said papers, which AFP claimed to have sighted , the Italian prosecutors alleged that ENI and Shell executives worked with a Nigerian businessman , Dan Etete, who was an “oil minister under the military ruler, Sani Abacha , from 1995 to 1998.” Etete ’s company , Malabu was the alleged
“fraudulent holder” of the OPL 245 block , according to the court documents filed by Italian prosecutors .
The prosecutors claimed that after talks in Milan and Abuja , the oil block was bought illegally by the oil majors in contravention of domestic laws, “ without competitive tendering” and with “full , unconditional exemption from all national taxes.”
To facilitate the alleged shady deal , a total of $ 801 .5 m was allegedly transferred to Etete’ s Malabu accounts , out of which $ 466 m was converted into naira and used for greasing the palms of government officials, including Jonathan and Diezani.
However, ENI and Shell have both denied wrongdoing in the transaction .
Shell , in an email to AFP, said, “We are aware of the investigation and we hope to show the prosecutor that there is no basis to prosecute Shell .
“Shell takes this matter seriously and is co-operating with the authorities.”
It would also be recalled that Adoke had denied the allegation of graft preferred against him. In a statement, Adoke said he got requisite approvals from the former President, Goodluck Jonathan to broker the settlement and execute the OPL 245 Settlement Agreement.
He said he did not benefit in any way from the auctioning of Oil Prospecting Licence 245(OPL 245), popularly referred to as Malabu Oil Block and described the charge against him irrational, stating that he was prepared to make himself available to defend it at the appropriate time.
The statement reads: “My attention has been drawn to the charges filed by the EFCC against me and other named individuals and companies in respect of OPL 245 Settlement Agreement involving Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited.
“The charge of aiding the commission of money laundering offences preferred against me has finally confirmed the orchestrated plans to bring me to public
disrepute in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of some powerful interests on revenge mission.
“I wish to reiterate that I acted within the actual and ostensible authority of the office I occupied to broker a settlement between Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited in order to ward off the over $2billion liability in damages for breach of contract which the country would have been exposed to in the likely event of the success of Shell Nigeria Ultra
Deep Limited’s claim before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
“The Terms of Settlement ensured that the interests of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited were duly acknowledged and provided for in the Settlement Agreement.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria was entitled to the Signature bonus which was duly paid; Malabu Oil & Gas Limited surrendered its title to OPL 245 for a consideration and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited was re-allocated OPL 245 which it had previously substantially de-risked in consideration for withdrawing their over US$ 2billion claim for breach of contract against the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
– Atavti, Judicial Editor Nigerian pilot writes from Abuja