The Federal Government has dragged former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and one-time Petroleum minister, Dan Etete to court in the United Kingdom, insisting that the transfer of over $800 million to accounts controlled by Dan Etete from a Nigerian government account with regards to the Malabu Oli deal was fraudulent and against Nigerian laws.
In a notice filed at the British Court, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, argued that the transfer of the funds was done against the Nigerian laws. “Those funds should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund of the Government of Nigeria, following the grant of an oil exploration licence to a foreign oil consortium,” the government argued, according to court documents seen by The Daily Times.
The Federal Government argued that based on Section 80 (1) of the Nigerian constitution, all such monies should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund. “All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation,” the section states.
The government argued that it was therefore illegal for the Goodluck Jonathan administration to have opened a separate Escrow Account in JP Morgan Bank in London into which the $1.1 billion was paid. Even after receiving the money in the escrow account, the government argued, it should have been transferred directly into the Consolidate Fund.
The $1.1 billion was part-payment by Shell and ENI for OPL 245- one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks. Although the government sought to transfer the total sum to Etete’s accounts, suits filed by middlemen seeking payments for services allegedly rendered during negotiation meant the government could only transfer $801 million of the money. About $110.5 million was transferred to a Swiss account after one of the middlemen, Emeka Obi, won his case against Malabu while $85 million remained stuck in the UK following a court ruling. In the process of retrieving the $85 million, the Federal Government filed its suit at the High Court of Justice, Admiralty and Commercial Court in the UK in October 2016.
However, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, who signed the transfer in 2011 has denied allegations, maintaining that he acted in the best interest of the Federal Government. The Federal Government also argued that Etete fraudulently secured the oil block for Malabu in 1998. According to Federal Government, Etete’s action violated Section 98 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act 1990 which makes it a criminal offence for any public official to corruptly obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person in the discharge of his official duties.
The government also argued that Etete’s conduct in the use of Malabu as a front breached the code of conduct for public officials. Section 5 of the Nigerian Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991 provides that “a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.” Other sections of the Act like sections 10 and 23 were also violated by the then petroleum minister, the government said. The government also argued that the failure of Malabu to pay any fee in 1998 when the block was awarded to it and also its failure to pay a $210 million signature bonus in 2016 was also illegal and further meant it had no right to the block. “In summary, the 29th April Agreement was a corrupt agreement which deprived the claimant and the Nigerian people of the value to which it was entitled from the sale and exploitation of OPL 245 Block …” the government argued. In its defence of the 2011 agreement and the transfer of the $801 million, Etete’s Malabu presented two letters written by Adoke.
In the first letter dated July 25, 2011 and the second dated May 20, 2013, Adoke accepted responsibility for the 2011 agreement and transfers, stating that it was in public interest and that he had the permission of the Federal Government to authorise the deal. In its ruling on the matter, delivered on December 19, 2016, the British court agreed with the Nigerian government and ruled that the $85 million be handed over to the Nigerian government. The Daily Times was unable to confirm if the Federal Government truly received the $85 million or what effort was being made to retrieve it as ordered by the court.