An ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday reopened investigation into the controversial $1.1bn award of Oil Prospecting Licence 245, better known as ‘Malabu Oil Deal.’
Lawmakers said Nigeria could not afford to lose an equivalent of “N500bn,” the local value of the money using the current Naira to 1USD exchange rate.
The committee, which is chaired by a member from Kwara State, Mr. Razak Atunwa, held a session with some of the key stakeholders involved in the deal at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Among those whose representatives met with the committee were Shell and Agip.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was also represented at the session where it was directed to provide information on the outcome of its investigation into the deal within two weeks.
Among former government officials to be summoned by the committee are a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.
Shell, through its lawyer, Mr. Richard Akinjide, had written to challenge the jurisdiction of the committee to investigate the deal, but he was overruled.
According to the House, the “lucrative” OPL 245 occupies an area of 1,958 square kilometres and holds up to “9.2billion” barrels of crude oil.
Recalling how the deal started, the committee said Chief Dan Etete, a former minister under the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, awarded the block to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas.
“He awarded it to himself for just $20m, out which he paid only $2m”, the committee stated.
It added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the block, but it was later sold to Shell at $210m, a development that sparked off legal tussles.
The committee recalled that while Malabu was still in court, Adoke and Alison-Madueke were alleged to have “contrived a series of complex agreement of a questionable nature.”
It said, “The summary of the agreement was that Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1bn to the Federal Government for the oil block.”
However, instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, the committee stated that Adoke and Alison-Madueke “caused the money to be transferred to Malabu, which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.
The EFCC admitted that it had looked into the matter and assured the committee that the agency would furnish it with available information at its disposal.