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Timeline: How FG lost cases in Nigeria’s $1.3 billion oil-field scandal

Timeline: How FG lost cases in Nigeria’s $1.3 billion oil-field scandal

Nigeria’s long-running oil-field scandal, involving a disputed Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, an oil field reputed to be one of Africa’s biggest, worth about $1.3 billion, has seen the Federal Government (FG) lose all related legal cases to date.

The OPL 245 saga

On April 9, 1998, the federal military government awarded OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, which was said to be owned mainly by Mohammed Abacha, son of the Sani Abacha, and Etete, who was the petroleum minister at the time.

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On July 2, 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked Malabu’s licence and assigned the oil block to Shell — without a public bid. Malabu went to court and ownership was reverted to it in 2006 after it reached an out-of-court settlement with the federal government.

Shell fought back and commenced arbitration against Nigeria, but when President Goodluck Jonathan came to power in 2010 and implemented the consent judgment returning the oil block to Malabu, the controversy appeared to have been resolved with Shell and Eni agreeing to buy the oil block from the Nigerian company for $1.1 billion.

The oil companies also paid $210 million as signature bonus to the federal government of Nigeria.

But activists launched an international campaign alleging that the OPL 245 deal was fraudulent and that the proceeds were used to bribe government officials.

Strings of losses

When former President Muhammadu Buhari came to office in 2015, his administration started a series of litigation against Royal Dutch Shell, Eni/Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE), Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep (SNUD) Ltd, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Company (SNEPCO) over the allegations.

13 April 2018: A federal high court ruled that Mohammed Adoke, former attorney general of the federation could not be held personally liable for carrying out lawful president instructions.

27 September 2019: A US department of Justice closes inquires into allegation of corruption.

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17 April 2020, US’ssecurities an Exchange Commission closes inquiry into the allegation.

On May 22, 2020, a UK court declined jurisdiction in a case filed by Nigeria against Shell/SNUD and Eni asking for compensation in the sum of $1.1 billion.

On March 17, 2021, an Italian court acquitted Shell, Eni and all defendants of corruption charges in the $1.1 billion deal.

On 14 June 2022, Nigeria lost $1.7bn claim against JP Morgan Bank over the transfer of OPL 245 proceeds to Malabu directors.

On March 2023, FCT high Court dismissed charges against Adoke and six others, chiding the EFCC for wasting four years without providing evidence of corruption.