…Reps commence investigation
From Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday commenced investigation into the award of the the controversial Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, better known as Malabu Oil deal.
The House had by a resolution of January 27 mandated the Razak Atunwa-led Adhoc committee to probe the alleged corruption, malpractice and breach of due process in the award of the licence.
The 7th House had investigated the matter, but the report of the investigation was not presented.
Speaking at yesterday’s investigative hearing by the committee, Atunwa insisted that a thorough investigation be carried out as the lack of transparency surrounding the award of the licence has cost Nigeria about N500 billion.
He said: “Nigeria and its citizens may be said to have been shortchanged to the tune of $1.1 billion. As we sit today, $110 million is being held by the United Kingdom authorities from the fund as proceeds from corruption from Nigeria. Italian prosecutors have also requested that money from that deal in Swiss accounts should be frozen
“The Nigerian people deserve to know what happened to their $1.1 billion which at today’s rate is over N500 billion that amount can fund the entire budget of the Federal Ministry of Education”.
However, to the amazement of the committee Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said the commission had not been briefed of the investigation by the House.
Aliyu Yusuf, who represented the EFCC chairman said commission was hearing about the investigation for the first time. His explanation didn’t go down well with the committee even as he was asked if he could have sent to represent the anti-graft agency without foreknowledge of his assignment. The committee also disagreed with the position of Shell, which through a letter written by its lawyer, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) to it that it has no power to investigate the matter.
The committee chairman had earlier disclosed that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami, had written to excuse himself in order to attend the Federal Executive Council meeting, promising to make himself available at any other chosen date.
The lawmaker however said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) AA Oil and Malabu oil “ have something to hide” by refusing to attend the investigative session.
Though Managing Director, SNEPCO, Bayo Ojulari, appeared at the hearing, he yielded the floor to the company’s lawyer, Dafe Agbele, who said he was not properly briefed and asked for an extension of time to put together a response on behalf of his client.
But the committee disagreed with Agbele, saying SNEPCO was aware of the matter and that it had enough time to make a submission. Nevertheless, Shell was given October 18, date to make its submission.
The OPL 245 has remained mired in controversy with allegations that Dan Etete, the minister of Petroleum Resources under the Sani Abacha administration awarded the license to himself in 1998.
Not even agreements for settlement signed between representatives of the Federal Government which saw the transfer of OPL 245, first from the Malabu to the Nigerian government and then from the government to Shell and Eni could lead to a resolution of misgivings around the deal.
Following the agreement, which past Attorney -General of the federation, Mohammed Adoke, and former Petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke signed on behalf of the federal government, government allegedly paid about $800 million into accounts controlled by Etete.
Regardless Atunwa posited that following an agreement between government and parties involved in the deal, Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration ( NAE) paid $1.1 billion to the Federal Government for the oil block and rather than paying the money into the federation Account as required by the constitution, Adoke and Allison- Madueke then caused the money to be transferred to Malabu which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.