Shell Knew Its $1.1bn For OPL 245 Will Go Into Private Pockets - Report

DAILY INDEPENDENT- Mohammed Shosanye

A new report by a non-governmental organisation, Global Witness, has blamed Shell and Eni for their alleged roles in the acquisition of OPL 245 in the oil-rich Niger Delta which is linked to Malabu oil scandal.

The report alleged that Shell executives knew the deal they were asking for was not a Production Sharing Contract, which would have given the Nigerian government a share of the oil from their OPL 245 block.

However, the report said, Shell and Eni continued to call it that – despite having removed the Nigerian government’s share of oil entirely, which fleeced the country of $6 billion.

According to the report, Nigeria’s civil servants objected, saying the deal was highly prejudicial to the interests of the Federal Government, but Nigerian ministers appeared to have ignored or overruled the concerns of their civil servants.

“Shell knew their billion dollar payment for the deal was not going into the public purse, but would fill private pockets instead. Shell and Eni and some of their most senior executives are now facing bribery charges in Italy and Nigeria, in one of the biggest corporate corruption cases in history,” the report added.

Prosecutors alleged that their $1.1 billion payment for the block in 2011 funded bribes to key ministers. The trial is ongoing and the defendants have denied wrongdoing.

But in an email response to Daily Independent’s enquiry, manager, Media Communications of Shell Nigeria, Bamidele Odugbesan, said, “We are aware of the latest claims from Global Witness and have responded to them directly, however, since this matter is before the tribunal of Milan it would not be appropriate for us to comment in detail. Issues that are under consideration as part of a trial process should be adjudicated in court and we do not wish to interfere with this process. We maintain that the settlement was a fully legal transaction with the Federal Government and Eni and, based on our review of the Prosecutor of Milan’s file and all of the information and facts available to us from that file, we do not believe that there is a basis to convict Shell or any of its former employees in Milan. We believe the courts in Italy will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.”

The executive director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey, told Daily Independent that the Malabu scandal was horrendous beyond imagination, adding that the development suggested a larger rot within the petroleum sector in the country generally.

Bassey said, “Imagine that the deal aimed to shut Nigeria from receiving up to $6 billion in revenue. All that in exchange for $1 billion into private pockets!

“That’s what can be called ‘ease of doing business’, and paying no attention to the interest of the nation.

“We are talking of individuals aiming to snatch $6 billion revenue from the national pot. Imagine that amount deployed towards cleaning up some of the dastardly contaminated areas of the Niger Delta!

“If the trials were not conducted outside our shores, all these would have been hidden under the fetid carpets of power. Without a thoroughly reviewed petroleum sector management architecture, Nigeria will continue to pick the crumbs from the tables of corrupt international oil companies and won’t be able to hold them to account for the ecocide they wreak on our environment.

“It is sad that some of these corporations are so powerful that they apparently block every effort at sanitising the sector. We must all be grateful to Global Witness and all groups working to expose these numbing corrupt practices.”

Also, Martin Onovo, a petroleum engineer and former presidential aspirant in Nigeria, condemned the Malabu oil sleaze and advocated the need to support conscious efforts to get to the root of the malaise in the interest of the nation’s oil industry.

Odugbesan recently confirmed the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office investigations against Royal Dutch Shell.

Odugbesan said, “We have been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigations and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell Plc with criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting Licence 245 in Nigeria. As appropriate, we will provide updates as this matter progresses.”

The Dutch authorities had issued a final notice of its intention to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell for criminal charges over OPL-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria, relating to the 2011 agreement between Nigerian officials and the company.

Besides, four other non-governmental organisations recently wrote the minister of justice of The Netherlands to warn against out-of-court settlement in the case instituted by the Netherlands government against Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Shell Petroleum over the acquisition of the OPL-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria.

“We held that the out-of-court settlement will not be in the public interest unless stringent conditions are attached,” the letter stated.

It was dated January 9, 2019, and signed by Nicholas Hildyard for the Corner House; Luca Manes for Re: Common; Olanrewaju Suraju for HEDA, and Simon Taylor for Global Witness.

They explained that whereas, in principle, they were not opposed to out-of-court settlements in cases where the defendant was ineligible for a custodial sentence, any settlement that did not produce a remedy proportionate to the alleged crime could not be seen as just.

They listed three grounds to justify their opposition to out-of-court settlement for RDS, Shell, and Shell executives on the OPL 245 oil and gas field case as follows: “The defendants have vigorously denied any criminality, and consequently any settlement will establish a precedent that the Dutch system is prepared to tolerate corporate recidivism and any settlement without a full and clear statement of facts and admission of guilt will be contrary to the interests of open justice.”

The groups said that if, notwithstanding their concerns, the Netherlands authorities deemed a settlement to be in the public interest, it would be unacceptable to allow the companies to continue to profit from the alleged corruption in the OPL 245 deal.

According to them, should the Dutch Prosecutor have sufficient evidence, they would expect those prosecutions to go to trial, even if a settlement option was available.

The bone of contention is the agreement which was made on April 29, 2011. It was made up of three separate resolution agreements.

The first, titled, ‘Block 245 Malabu Resolution Agreement,’ was signed between representatives of the Federal Government and those of Malabu, which was represented during the discussions by a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

The second agreement titled, ‘Block 245 Resolution Agreement,’ was between the Nigerian government and officials of Shell and Eni/AGIP.

The third agreement titled, ‘Block 245 SNUD Resolution Agreement,’ was signed by officials of the Nigerian government and Shell.

Last week, one Aliyu Abubakar, who allegedly acted as an agent of former President Goodluck Jonathan, in the controversial Malabu deal appeared before an Italian court.

The scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

Aliyu, who is a principal witness in the ongoing trial, was alleged by prosecutors to have operated as an agent for Goodluck Jonathan in the deal and was key to distributing $520 million in cash bribes.

Aliyu Abubakar was charged in Nigeria with money laundering and corruption related offences connected to the deal.

The prosecutor said that an Italian lawyer who claimed to be acting for Aliyu Abubakar visited them and asked for a new delay.

No written request was submitted and prosecutors pushed back, saying they were going ahead, according to court documents.

Abubakar confirmed that he had received the information regarding the charges against him.

He was reminded that he could choose not to answer questions as he could self-incriminate.

The lawyer representing him had turned up in the Milan court and he had a lawyer with him in Nigeria.

Abubakar had asked for a delay in giving his testimony. He was supported by some defendants, saying that Abubakar was an important witness and his new lawyers had not had time to review all the evidence.

The judges ruled that given the seriousness and complexity of even just the charges against Abubakar, a delay should be granted and the prosecutor would offer a new date.

Abubakar is facing charges in Italy in this case but prosecutors weren’t able to serve the papers on Abubakar until recently.

Due to the scope of the charges and evidence against him, he and his lawyers were given time to digest what was before them.


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