by AIT: 12 April 2017
Courts in Nigeria and Italy are investigating the purchase of the offshore block which was initially awarded in 1998 to Malabu Oil and Gas, in a disputed deal, before Royal Dutch Shell and Eni were awarded the rights in 2011.
Shell and Eni paid $1.3 billion for the rights to the block, which industry estimates say could hold more than 9 billion barrels of oil.
The House of Representatives mandated the committee to “conduct a thorough examination of the process and circumstances surrounding OPL 245 and identify culpability of any persons, groups or organisations,” committee chairman Razak Atunwa said in an emailed statement.
“The committee is aware of recent information that has come to light, both nationally and internationally, indicating that former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may have been complicit in the controversial OPL 245 deal,” said the statement.
Chairman, House of Representatives ad-hoc panel probing the contract of Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, Razak Atunwa, says his committee will invite former president, Goodluck Jonathan, to assist in the ongoing investigation of the Malabu oil deal.
Recall that Jonathan on Tuesday dismissed reports that he received $200m as kick-back from the said deal, adding that the “fake news” was the handiwork of those determined to truncate his rising international profile.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rep Atunwa, said Jonathan’s input in the probe was important.
“The House of Representatives, by a Resolution taken at Plenary set up and mandated this Committee to, inter alia, conduct a thorough examination of the process and circumstances surrounding OPL 245 and identify culpability of any persons, groups or organizations.
“The committee is aware of recent information that have come to light, both nationally and internationally, indicating that former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may have been complicit in the controversial OPL 245 deal.
“The committee is also closely monitoring the proceedings in the Italian Courts instituted by the Public Prosecutor of Milan in which Ministers in Jonathan Administration were mentioned including President Jonathan himself.
“These facts have firmly placed former President Goodluck Jonathan on the Committee’s radar. The committee believes that former President Goodluck Jonathan may well be in a position to assist it with its inquiries.
“Accordingly, the Committee is considering inviting him to give evidence before it. An announcement will be made once a formal firm decision is taken on the matter. The Committee intends to be meticulous, thorough and comprehensive in its inquiry so as to bring about finality to this seemingly intractable matter”.
The licence for the oil block was awarded to Malabu in 1998 under then-President Sani Abacha, although a successive government revoked the licence. Malabu appealed that decision, and the status of the licence was uncertain at the time that Shell finalised its deal with the Nigerian.