Yesterday, Wednesday 3rd April, A consultant hired by Italian prosecutors, Dr. Dayo Ayoade in Italy, said award of Malabu Oil Block (OPL 245) to Shell and ENI was illegal.
Ayoade spoke at the resumption of the case involving the two oil giants at a Milan Court in Milan, Italy.
He made lead presentations to prosecutors.
Ayoade of the Department of Law, University of Lagos was hired by Milan prosecutors to ascertain whether the two oil giants met corporate and legal obligations.
The celebrated case is being contested by high profile legal experts from Nigeria and across the world, including a retired Nigerian Supreme Court Judge, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola JSC (Rtd) who stood in for Shell, a Queens Counsel (QC), Prof. Frank Odita, representing ENI with Mrs. Felicia Femi Olusegun.
The transcript of the court session was made available by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), whose coordinator, Suraj Olanrewaju, was in court to monitor the proceedings for the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
According to HEDA, the Milan Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Fabio DePasquale, took Dr. Ayoade through his expert’s report.
Ayoade was asked to “prepare a submission in support of corruption charges, bribery and illegal sale and acquisition of the oil blocs by the two major oil companies and the allocation of the blocs to Malabu by the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Dan Etete.”
He said: “The award process for OPL245 to Shell and ENI did not follow the procedure established in the Petroleum Act, Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulation and DPR Guidance Notes for Prospective Bidders.
“Failure to follow the relevant laws, policies and regulations is fatal to the legality of the OPL 245 award (Zebra Energy Ltd V FGN (2002)). It is my considered view that the license award on the basis of a FGN Resolution Agreement is anomalous and unprecedented in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector.”
Under examination by the prosecutor, Dr. Ayoade expressed shock at the condition for the acquisition of the lucrative bloc by the IOCs.
He said: “I am surprised that everything around the Resolution Agreements destabilises established petroleum laws and regulations in Nigeria.
“Contrary to the laws and standards, the Office of Attorney General of the Federation supervised the resolution processes and agreements on OPL245 deal as against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.”
”The Minister of Petroleum Resources does have sufficient powers to award oil licences, but this must follow established procedure; and the Minister must perform his statutory duties in the public interest.”
“ The public interest is obviously missing in the OPL 245 award and subsequent Resolution Agreements.” He said this was observed and stressed in the letter from DPR to the Minister of Justice on the Resolution Agreements allegedly prepared by the oil companies.
While the experts of the Nigerian Government are expected to make written and oral presentations on April 4, 2019, the presentation by the ENI experts are expected on April 10.
OPL245 is an offshore oil block with about nine billion barrels of crude.
It was auctioned for $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros).
Although the Nigerian government received only $210 million as Signature Bonus, about $1.092 billion was traced to a London bank account which was suspected to be slush funds allegedly used to bribe some middle men and politicians in the country.
A former President was accused of benefiting about $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu oil deal.
About $523million of the $1.092billion paid for the block was shared out as bribes to some former ministers and politicians.
A former minister blew about $250million on real estate, acquisition of aircraft and exotic cars.
A court in Milan had convicted the two facilitators of the deal, Emeka Obi and Gialuca DiNardo, through accelerated hearing in September, last year.
The main presentation of experts’ report, examination and cross-examination of the experts resumed yesterday after an agreed break for preparation and translation of reports into Italian by all the parties.