From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, admitted he approved the controversial Malabu oil transaction, but refuted the allegation that he received gratification before giving nod to the transaction.
Reacting, for the first time, to the bribery allegation, the former president, in a statement by his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, strongly denied mandating a businessman, Abubakar Aliyu or any other person, to collect bribe on his behalf while the negotiation for the transaction was going on. Last week, there were reports that Jonathan and former minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke allegedly received gratification in the $1.3 billion paid by ENI and Royal Dutch Shell in 2011 for an offshore oil block.
According to the reports, the revelation regarding the involvement of Jonathan and Madueke came from court documents filed in December 2016, in Milan, which outlined a case against 11 people, including senior executives from Eni and Shell as well as the companies.
The reports claimed that Claudio Descalzi, ENI chief executive and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni were quoted as claiming they met with Jonathan to thrash out the deal “in person”.
The prosecutors alleged that ENI and Shell executives worked with Dan Etete, the oil minister during the military administration of Sani Abacha.
According to the court documents, Etete’s company, Malabu Oil & Gas, was an alleged “fraudulent holder” of the OPL 245 block.
The block was alleged to have been illegally acquired by the oil companies in contravention of domestic laws “without competitive tendering” and with “full, unconditional exemption from all national taxes.”
It was alleged that $801.5 million was transferred to Etete’s Malabu accounts, while $54 million was said to have been withdrawn by Abubakar Aliyu, who was described as an “agent” of Jonathan.
However, reacting to the claims , Jonathan insisted there was no truth in the allegation. He said he never ordered anybody to collect bribe on his behalf during and after the negotiation.
“Our attention has been drawn to news reports published mostly by online media which suggested, through innuendo, rather than factual evidence, that former President Goodluck Jonathan received kickbacks in the $1.3 billion OPL 245 oil block deal involving oil giants ENI and Royal Dutch Shell.
“We wish to make it clear that former President Jonathan was not accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting any monies as kickbacks or bribes from ENI by the Italian authorities or any other law enforcement body, the world over.
“In the first place, we have to categorically state that the negotiations and transactions for the oil block deal predate the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan which began on May 6, 2010, and ended on May 29, 2015,” the statement read.
“It may interest those promoting this false narrative to know that all the documents relating to the transactions, issues and decisions of the Federal Government on the Malabo issue, during the Jonathan administration, are in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice.
“As President of Nigeria, there is no doubt that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan met with executives of all the oil majors operating in Nigeria and urged them to, amongst other things, support the growth of the Nigerian oil industry by ramping up their investments and comply with the Local Content Act that he promoted and signed into law.
“We, however, wish to state, for emphasis, that at no time did the former President hold private meetings with representatives of ENI to discuss pecuniary issues. All the meetings and discussions former President
Jonathan had with ENI, other IOCs and some indigenous operators were conducted officially, and in the presence of relevant Nigerian Government officials and were done in the best interest of the country,” the statement went on.
“We make bold to point out that the former President never sent any Abubakar Aliyu, as the innuendoes in the false report suggest, to ENI, the IOCs or any indigenous operator, to seek favour or collect any gratification on his behalf.” The statement insisted that while in or out of office, Jonathan never owned any bank account, aircraft or real estate outside Nigeria, and challenged “anyone with contrary information to publicly publish same.”
“As the President who signed the Freedom of Information Act into law, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan lifted the veil on governance and encouraged transparency knowing that evil breeds in secrecy. It is the opinion of the former President that journalists and media houses should take advantage of this law in their investigative journalism, rather than rely on hearsay,” the statement concluded.