Government is putting together water-tight evidence for the prosecution of Nigerians and international oil giants Eni and Shell, over the controversial OPL 245 Production Sharing Contract scam.
This decision was reached shortly after the Malian Palace of Justice in Italy, commenced the prosecution of the two oil giants following damning evidence unearthed by Simon Taylor, founding director of an anti-corruption group, Global Witness.
Taylor’s Global Witness, and several media houses have for years conducted extensive investigation into the oil deal, even when the Nigerian government seemed unwilling to do so.
With the exception of the Nigerian Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (NEITI) that remained the lone public institution bringing up series of scams in the nation’s oil and extractive industries, every other public institution, including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), have kept sealed lips, giving the impression of complicity.
The Malabu deal exposed two international oil and gas giants, Royal Dutch Shell and Italian Agip-Eni, which allegedly paid about $1.1 billion to Chief Dan Etete, a former Nigerian petroleum minister, who had previously been convicted of money laundering in France.
Incidentally, the Whistle blowers said the amount lost by Nigerian in the deal is well in excess of $10 billion.
Eni CEO, Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers, including former Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded, are on trial over the scam in far-away Italy.
Two men named in the case – Emeka Obi, a Nigerian consultant in England, and Gianluca Di Nardo, an Italian, according to investigations by Global Witness, stood as middlemen in the deal that ensured the transfer of the funds through international bank accounts. These men have already been convicted over the deal.
Yesterday in Abuja, the representatives of Global Witness led by Mr Barnabas pace; the Head of Public Relations Department of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Osita Waja (who represented chairman of the commission); Chief Oko Obno-Obla, chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Recovery of Public Property; Chief Orji Ogbonnaya Orji of NEITI; Hon. Kayode Oladele, Chairman of the House Committee on Anti-Corruption, and Mr. Garba Abari, Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), held a session where they compared notes on the OPL 245 scam.
They agreed that Nigeria never got a fair deal in the Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) it entered into with foreign oil companies.
Dr. Orji in particular, lamented that all the red flags raised by NEITI were treated with levity by the government due to suspected private interests.
Waja and Obno-Obla said the only way out is for government to vigorously pursue justice in areas where economic fraud had been noticed, which is why Obno-Obla stressed that his panel had seized several property suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of corruption.
Hon. Oladele on his part said the House is surprised that after it recommended the cancellation of the sale of OPL 245, government is yet to do so.
“I therefore reiterate the stance of the parliament, that Nigerian government must urgently review the OPL contract agreement, especially considering new discoveries that have provided further insight into the rip-off,” he stressed.