From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A prosecution witness has told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, that a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, followed due process in the OPL 245 settlement of 2011.
Adoke was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, alongside Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, a property developer, Gbinije, Malabu’s company secretary, Shell Ultra Deep, Eni/Agip and SNECPO.
They were charged to
over allegations of conspiracy in the controversial sale of OPL 245 to Shell and Eni by Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
Put in the witness box on Tuesday, the prosecution witness, Peter Akper, a professor of law at Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), said he served as Special Adviser to three former Attorney General of the Federation AGFs; Michael Aondoaaka, SAN, Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, and Adoke and knew most of the defendants on trial.
When asked by counsel to Adoke, Paul Erokoro, SAN whether: “During your period of service as SA to the 1st defendant (Adoke), will you say he was a stickler to following all laws and due process?”
Akper replied: “My Lord, I think that is a fair description of him.”
He told the court: “In 2002, the Federal Government of Nigeria revoked Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd interest in OPL 245 and awarded the same block to Shell Ultra Deep. So, Malabu’s contention was that Shell was their TechnicalPartner and so it was unfair for the federal government to take their interest in OPL 245 and give to a company that was supposed to be on their side as partners. That was their contention. That was the mistrust between the parties.
“Also, because there was a subsisting arbitration between Shell and the federal government was anxious to be relieved of that contingent liability (the $2 billion claim). At the end of the day, it was necessary to get all the parties to thetable so that the FG will take advantage of the desire of Malabu to sell their interest in OPL 245 to Shell to resolve three main issues. The first being the dispute between federal government and Shell, second being the claim between Malabu and federal government to ensure that the block became operational to enable federal government derive tax, revenues and royalties from its operations.
“So, the contending parties entered into negotiations facilitatedby the office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and they reached a resolution. That is the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement. This Agreement was then forwarded to the President for approval and for execution by the parties.”
The prosecution witness said during the negotiations, Chief Dan Etete and Rasky Gbinije represented the interest of Malabu and he never saw Abacha, adding that the son of the former head of state onlycame into the picture when the agreements had been concluded and executed.
The EFCC witness told the court that he was aware that the criminal trial of Shell and others in an Italian court over OPL 245 has dismissed all allegations of corruption.
He also said he was aware Nigeria lost its $1.7 billion claim against JP Morgan in which the country alleged that the bank was negligent by transferring the $1.1 billion to Malabu.
The British judge had dismissedclaims, saying Nigeria could not prove any act of corruption in the transaction.
Gen Sani Abacha, his father, was the head of state when the oil block was awarded to Malabu in 1998.
Adoke has always maintained that he did not do any wrong in the OPL 245 settlement and that when he was approachedby Abacha over the share issue in 2011, he told him it was a shareholders’ dispute that the Office of the AGF could not interfere in and should be addressed by the board or through a civil suit.
In his book, Burden of Service, Adoke alleged that the federal government scandalised the OPL 245 deal because President Muhammadu Buhari was unhappy that the Abacha family did not benefit from the $1.1 billion paid to Malabu Oil & Gas Limited by the oil companies.