Ex-AGF, Justice Mohammed Adoke explains his role in the Malibu oil deal

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, has written to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s investigation into the Malabu oil scandal.

In the letter, which was dated December 31, 2015, Adoke averred that the linking of his name to the scandal was an act of blackmail and a campaign of calumny directed at his person.

He accused the family of late military dictator, Sani Abacha, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, of mounting a smear campaign to tarnish his reputation.

The letter reads in part that:

“Your Excellency would upon an objective determination of the distilled issues come to the irrefutable conclusion that at all times material to the resolution of the dispute, conscious efforts were made by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to safeguard national interest.

“Furthermore, in the negotiations, the Office of the Attorney General ensured that all relevant ministries, departments and agencies including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were represented and participated to ensure compliance with extant laws and processes.

“It is therefore incorrect and contrary to as widely claimed in some quarters that the money that was paid to Malabu, which was only warehoused in an escrow account, was meant for the Nigerian government and that the country was thereby shortchanged.

“Malabu as title-holder of the oil block merely dispensed of her interest in it as allowed by law. This indeed is the case with similar oil blocks allocated to several notable Nigerians who also disposed of their interests to oil multinationals and are enjoying the proceeds without any eyebrow or allegations of corruption.”

He further added that:

“Your Excellency may please note that except for those whose sole intentions are to denigrate and impugn my integrity for resisting attempts to use the Office of the HAGF to further narrow selfish business interests, the transaction aforementioned was legitimate, transparent and well documented, and above all, self explanatory. I trust therefore that this brief will afford you the opportunity to dispassionately examine the records and come to a fair and just assessment of the matter.”

Adoke also stated that he was presently in Netherlands where he is studying for an Advanced LL.M Degree in Public International Law at the University of Leiden, hence his inability to honor an invitation by the EFCC.

He, however, noted that the invitation from the EFCC was “rather curious, unconventional and mischievous especially as I acted purely in an official capacity and the EFCC could easily have had recourse to the sitting AGF for clarifications since the records are in the Federal Ministry of Justice as government is a continuum.”

“I therefore phoned the AGF and notified him of the development and offered a detailed explanation of what had transpired. I also impressed on him the need to protect the office from unwarranted attacks and machinations of those out to destroy it in view of its unique constitutional role in governance.

“I followed up by sending him a written brief with a copy of the attached Comprehensive Position Paper to enable him familiarise himself with the transaction in the event that official files in the Federal Ministry of Justice could not, for one reason or the other, be easily traced,”

On the details of the deal, Adoke wrote that:

“The records are there to show what was achieved and that the monies were paid into the federal government accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),” he added.

“It is in this regard that I respectfully urge Your Excellency to carefully consider and ascertain from the documentation supplied, the following facts:

(i) that Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 was granted to Malabu Oil & Gas Limited by the administration of General Sani Abacha, GCFR, in 1998;

(ii) that OPL 245 was subsequently revoked by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, in 2001 and re-allocated to Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) in 2002 under a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) arrangement;

(iii) that at the time of revocation and re-award, Malabu and SNUD had a binding Joint Operating Agreement to exploit the block with SNUD as technical partner to the Venture;

(iv) that aggrieved over the revocation, Malabu petitioned the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum. After a public hearing, the House condemned the revocation and re-allocation to SNUD and recommended that the block be restored to Malabu;

(v) that Malabu also sued the FGN and SNUD at the FHC in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2003 claiming several declaratory reliefs including an order setting aside the re-allocation to SNUD and a restoration of the block to Malabu. The suit was struck out but on appeal, the parties entered into a settlement dated 30th November 2006 which were executed by my predecessor in office, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN;

(vi) that the Terms of Settlement were filed in court as consent judgment and a key term in the settlement was the restoration of the oil block 245 to Malabu by the FGN.”

According to the ex-AGF, President Obasanjo in 2006 rescinded his earlier revocation and restored the oil block 245 to Malabu.

At the time, SNUD had already expended huge resources of over $500 million to de-risk the oil block under the existing arrangement with the government and had found oil in commercial quantities, despite the pending litigation instituted by Malabu.

Shell, however, was also offended by the unilateral revocation of the block by the Federal Government and had instituted arbitration proceedings at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), claiming over $2 billion from government for breach of contract, loss of investment and special damages.

Adoke noted that he stepped in at this point to resolve the issue between the parties involved.

“At all times material to the resolution of the dispute between Malabu/Shell/FGN one Mohammed Sani who now claims to be Mohammed Abacha was not a party to the transaction and did not disclose any personal or family interest in OPL 245 to the administration of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, GCFR, or to the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Mohammed Abacha did not participate in the negotiations leading to the resolution or settlement agreements. Mr. Abacha surfaced only after the tripartite resolution of the matter between Shell/Malabo and asked that the FGN should request the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to prevail on the main shareholder of Malabu to respect their interests in Malabu by paying them part of the proceeds.

“Rather than use the courts to resolve their internal company issues in Malabu, they have resorted to the use of the apparatus of state to settle scores with imaginary and perceived enemies.”

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