From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, ordered an interim forfeiture of oil prospecting licence (OPL 245), otherwise, known as Malabu oil.
Justice John Tsoho, who made the order, said it will last pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, Nigerian Agip Exploration Ltd, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and other individuals named in connection with the act of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.
The court also ordered the Department of Petroleum Resources to manage the oil processing licence of OPL 245 on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The court took the decision sequel to an exparte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for that purpose.
The application itself was hinged on the controversies and allegations of fraud associated with the licencing of the oil Bloc.
In a 21-paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Ibrahim Ahmed, attached with an Exparte Originating summons, the commission stated that the properties attached are proceeds of crime that should be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The EFCC said the commission had taken the steps in public interest in view of the crimes and fraud against the economic interest of the federal government.
It said sometime in April 1998, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was incorporated in Nigeria with share holders, namely, Mohammed Sani, fronting for the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Kwekwu Amafegha, representing Dan Etete, the then minister of Petroleum Resources and Hassan Hindu, on behalf of Ambassador Hassan Adamu.
It also said in the same month, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources offered the company, Deep Water Oil Bloc, processing licence in respect of OPK 245.
It further said in June 1998, Gen. Abacha died, and between 1999 and 2000, the corporate status and share holding structures were uttered severally through forged board resolutions which eventually divested Mohammed Sani of their shares, while new share holders and directors were appointed fraudulently.
Although the EFCC had earlier filed charges against some of the suspects, including the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, the order obtained by the EFCC yesterday appeared to set the stage for prosecution of more suspects. The additional suspects named in the application were Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration Limited, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited “and other individuals”.
Ojogbane said, yesterday, that the suspects were being investigated “in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.”
The EFCC had, on December 20, 2016, charged nine suspects, including Adoke, with respect to the $1.1billion scam.
Other accused persons named in the charges filed by the EFCC before a Federal High Court in Abuja, were Etete, Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Development Company Ltd, Group Construction Ltd, Megatech Engineering Ltd.
The anti-graft agency, in the charges with suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, accused Adoke of illegally transferring over $800 million purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from a Federal Government account.
The EFCC also accused Aliyu, an oil magnate, who is the Chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336.5 million.