Written by Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Abuja Federal High Court on Tuesday rejected a preliminary objection filed by the Federal Government to suspend a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the son of the late military chief Mohammed Abach to regain ownership of an oil exploration license, OPL 245, originally granted to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
In the judgment of Judge Binte Nyako, the court held that, contrary to FG’s contention, the lawsuit was not statute-barred nor did it constitute an abuse of court proceedings.
Judge Nyako held that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.
In addition to FY, the other defendants in the lawsuit marked FHC / ABJ / CS / 201/2017 are; Minister of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Company Ltd, and former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete.
OPL 245 is considered one of the largest oil blocks in Africa.
It was originally awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 1998 by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, in a procedure that the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, allegedly violated with all known government regulations.
The EFCC said its investigations revealed that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd secured OPL 245 through a bogus scheme involving large-scale bribery and corruption by the company’s top management and some government officials.
Lawsuits filed by the Anti-Corruption Agency further revealed that the oil block was later withdrawn from Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd on July 2, 2001, following a directive by Presidential Oil Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanya, after which Shell Nigeria was awarded Ultra Deep Ltd.
However, after a series of lawsuits, OPL 245 was returned to Malabu, which the EFCC said subsequently entered into a fraudulent agreement with Shell and Agip, in which companies paid FG a $ 210 million signing bonus, while additional A $ 1.2 billion bribe was given to some owners of Malabu Oil $ Gas Ltd, led by former Abacha oil minister, Chief Etete, who was already a convict at the time.
The EFCC claimed that former Federation Attorney General Mohammed Adoke of SAN helped Shell and Agip direct the bribe money through FG’s Escrow account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London.
However, Adoke, meanwhile, denied the allegations, insisting he was innocent.
Meanwhile, in a lawsuit he filed on behalf of Malabu oil, Abach’s son Mohammed claimed to be a majority shareholder in the oil company.
The plaintiff told the court that the oil company was not part of the alleged allocation of OPL 245 to Shell and Agip and why they allegedly paid Etete $ 1.3 billion.
He told the court that the actual shareholders of the company were excluded from the process.
The plaintiff added that the oil company was also not part of Resolution on Block 245 of April 29, 2011, concluded between FY, Shell, Agip and Eteta, allegedly representing Malabu Oil, adding that “it has not waived any or all of its rights and interests in OPL 245 to any person or persons. “
He added that the alleged assignment of OPL 245 to Shell and Agip in 2011 violated Malabu’s oil rights as the holder of “OPL 245 to exclusively explore and find oil in its license area, in accordance with paragraph 5 of the First Schedule of the Oil Law and is therefore null and void. “
The plaintiff requests the court to issue, inter alia, a permanent injunction restricting the defendant from conducting any investigative or investigative activities in connection with or in relation to the area covered by OPL 245.
He wants the court to issue an order forcing the defendants to return their right to exclusive possession of OPL 245.
The plaintiff also wants a statement that he is not a party to the Agreement on Resolution Bloc 245 of 29 April 2011, any payment allegedly made by the respondent to any bank account presumed to be the plaintiff’s bank account or made to the 7th respondent ( Etete) allegedly on behalf of the plaintiff, no payment was made in accordance with the aforementioned agreement on block resolution 245.
As well as the statement that the award of OPL 245 by the 1st and 2nd accused (FY and Minister of Petroleum) to the 4th and 5th accused (Shell and Agip), through a letter from the Minister of Petroleum, on 11 May 2011, entitled “Re : Agreement on Resolution OPL 245 / Letter of Award “, while the rights and interests of the plaintiff on OPL 245 existed, violates the exclusive right of the plaintiff under paragraph 5 of the First Schedule to the Oil Law to explore and search for oil within the area covered by OPL 245 and therefore it is invalid, unjust, null and void and has no effect.
Meanwhile, the Nyako judiciary adjourned the lawsuit until March 9, 2021 for a hearing.
Vanguard News Nigeria