• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nigeria resolves ‘all issues’ on $1.3 billion oil-field scandal

After missing multiple deadlines, Lokpobiri insists Port Harcourt Refinery nears ‘final phase’

The federal government of Nigeria has announced the complete resolution of all issues surrounding the long-running $1.3 billion oil field scandal.

The scandal involved allegations of corruption and bribery in the awarding of a license for the OPL 245 oil block.

Speaking at the 23rd annual NOG Energy Week in Abuja, Heineken Lokpobiri, minister for state for petroleum resources said a meeting between the Attorney general of the federation, NNPC, and officials of the disputing parties was held to address the lingering issues.

“Nigeria has resolved all the issues with OPL 245; we soon we will be seeing inflocks of investment,” Lokpobiri said on Tuesday.

He added, “The differences between this government and the previous governments is the fact that we are addressing, resolving and fixing all issues as they come”.

Lokpobiri maintained that if Nigeria is able to resolve issues around OPL 245, it could attract investment to the tune of billions of dollars and markedly change the story of the oil industry in Nigeria.

“The block has been tied down for 28 years,” he lamented.

Read also: Eight idle oil fields offer lifeline to sinking petrodollars

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.

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.

Read also: Nigeria oil fields jump to 246 on investor response to PIA – NUPRC

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.

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.