Mal­abu: UK court throws out Nige­ria’s $1bn bribery case

The Punch - - Front Page - ’Femi Asu with agency re­port

An Eng­lish court threw out a $1.1bn case Nige­ria brought against Royal

Dutch Shell and Eni re­lat­ing to a dis­pute over the pur­chase of Oil Prospect­ing Li­cence 245, a court doc­u­ment showed on Fri­day.

The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment filed the case in 2018 at a com­mer­cial court in London al­leg­ing pay­ments made by the oil ma­jor to get the OPL 245 in 2011 were used for kick­backs and bribes.

Eni and Shell jointly ac­quired the rights to the OPL 245 for about $1.3bn but the deal had spawned le­gal cases span­ning sev­eral coun­tries. A re­lated trial in Italy con­tin­ues.

The OPL 245, one of the big­gest sources of un­tapped oil re­serves on the African con­ti­nent with re­serves es­ti­mated at nine bil­lion bar­rels, is also at the heart of an on­go­ing trial in Mi­lan, Italy.

Reuters quoted Jus­tice Butcher as say­ing in his rul­ing that the High Court “must de­cline ju­ris­dic­tion over the ac­tion against” Shell and the other de­fen­dants.

A Shell spokes­woman said the com­pany wel­comed the de­ci­sion.

“We main­tain that the 2011 set­tle­ment... re­lated to the OPL 245 was a fully le­gal trans­ac­tion with Eni and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment of Nige­ria, rep­re­sented by the most se­nior of­fi­cials of the rel­e­vant ministries,” she was quoted by Reuters as say­ing.

A spokesman for Nige­ria was quoted as say­ing in a state­ment that it was “nat­u­rally dis­ap­pointed the court has de­clined ju­ris­dic­tion over its civil claim”.

The OPL 245 oil­field is also cen­tral to a cor­rup­tion trial in Mi­lan in which for­mer and cur­rent Shell and Eni of­fi­cials are on the bench, as well as court pro­ceed­ings Nige­ria started against JP Mor­gan, which pro­cessed some of the pay­ments in ques­tion.

The bank has said it con­sid­ers the al­le­ga­tions against it “un­sub­stan­ti­ated and with­out merit”.

The Shell spokes­woman said that based on the com­pany’s re­view of the pros­e­cu­tor of Mi­lan’s file, it did not be­lieve there was a case to an­swer.

In 1998, the OPL 245 was awarded by a for­mer Pe­tro­leum Min­is­ter, Dan Etete, to Mal­abu Oil and Gas, which later sold it to Eni and Shell.

The deal saw the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment act as an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween the oil ma­jors and Mal­abu Oil and Gas, a com­pany al­legedly con­trolled by Etete.

•L-R: Chair­man, Kano Elec­tric­ity Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­pany, Al­haji Ta­jud­deen Dan­tata; Gov­er­nor of Kano State, Dr Ab­dul­lahi Gan­duje; Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, KEDCO, Al­haji Isi­aku Gwamna; and Co Chair, Kano State Fund Rais­ing Com­mit­tee for COVID-19, Prof Yahuza Bello, dur­ing the do­na­tion of food items by KEDCO to Kano State Gov­ern­ment...on Thurs­day. Photo: KEDCO

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