Federal High Court in Abuja, fixed May 18 to hear a motion seeking to stop the Federal Government from entering into any Final Investment Decision (F.I.D) Agreement with any person in respect of Zabazaba Deep water project located within the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245.
Shell’s admittance is coming after a new evidence, following the corruption probe into its acquisition of the oil bloc, off the coast of Nigeria, indicating that top executives were prepared to press ahead with the deal, despite knowing that most of the money could end up as political bribes.
The applicants specifically prayed the court to stop the defendants from going ahead with their plan to sign a $13.5billion Zabazaba Deep water project agreement within the second quarter of this year. It urged the court to grant interlocutory reliefs barring such agreement since the project would be located within OPL 245, which is still a subject of litigation.
Royal Dutch Shell, yesterday, admitted paying $1.1 billion to the Nigerian Government in 2011 as settlement for an exploration license for Malabu Oil and Gas and rights to oil bloc, OML 245.
The Anglo-Dutch oil firm insists that its joint purchase of Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 with Eni SpA was “fully legal,” adding that it paid no money to Etete or his Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
The backtracking on its previous stance on the deal now being investigated for alleged corruption came only two days after Buzzfeed published on April 9, 2017 internal emails showing that Shell’s members of staff discussed the risk that funds from the transaction could ultimately be used to pay off officials.
The OPL 245, jointly purchased by Shell and Eni SpA and estimated to hold about nine billion barrels of crude, is being investigated in three countries – Nigeria, The Netherlands and Italy.
In the charges it filed last month, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that the companies used the settlement deal to “corruptly” pay $801 million to Malabu, Etete and others.
Both oil producers have denied the allegation, stating that they paid into an account exclusively controlled by the Nigerian Government and had neither knowledge of nor control over subsequent transfers. Also, Eni insisted that it was not involved in any wrongdoing and did not make payments to Malabu, Etete or any public official.
Malabu is owned by former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete. This came as controversy, yesterday, trailed plans by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice probing the Malabu deal to summon former President Goodluck Jonathan to testify before the ad-hoc panel investigating the deal. Etete and Adoke Former President Jonathan, however, in a statement by his spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, denied allegations that he received a bribe of $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu oil deal.
Eze reiterated the fact that while in and out of office, President Jonathan did not open and didn’t own any bank account, aircraft or real estate outside Nigeria, adding that anyone with contrary information should publish same,
he also said the allegation against the former president was sponsored by those threatened by his rising profile in the international community.