Ex-attorney general Mohammed Adoke from Nigeria was arrested in Dubai on Monday because of his involvement in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the oil industry.
Adoke’s attorney, Mike Ozekhome confirmed to Reuters the arrest, which took place on Wednesday, 20th November 2019, saying the warrant used to arrest his client had expired.
In April, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency issued warrants for two former ministers, alongside Adoke and ENI, over Malabu Oil and Gas, a $1.3 billion sale of an offshore oilfield in Nigeria in 2011.
The transaction has sparked legal cases across several countries, and involving Nigerian government officials and top ENI and Royal Dutch Shell executives. However, Shell, Eni, and their executives have so far refuted involvement in any of these.
Ozekhome said his client was unduly arrested when he went for a medical appointment in Dubai, adding that the warrant had been annulled by a Nigerian court in October because the warrant was issued even when his client had not been served with the charges before.
Many in the country have labelled his arrest a witch hunt by the Government of Mohammed Buhari. These sentiments are shared by those who are of the opinion that the present Nigerian government’s anti-graft war is targeted majorly at members of the opposition party, the PDP, and those who were part of the previous administration. Although many of them do not know that this deal started during Abacha’s regime, before PDP came to power.
Majority of Nigerians are of the opinion that the anti-graft war by the present administration has not yielded positive results, and that the various monies collected from looters have not been felt in the economy.
A good number of Nigerians also applaud the EFCC and their fight to reduce corruption among public servants and also bring those who have served Nigeria in the past to book. They commend the EFCC’s effort in handling an international scam such as the Malabu Oil deal.
The Controversial Malibu Oil Deal
The oil deal has been of major interest to many in the world, because of the amount of money and the players involved. It is a $1.3billion deal that is connected to the most valuable oil field in West Africa, called “OPL 245”. It involves big oil companies such as Shell and ENI, cutting across three nations, Nigeria, Netherlands, and Italy.
From the Nigerian perspective and investigations, a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, who was appointed by the then president, Mohammed Sani Abacha, is the major culprit in the deal.
Dan Etete is said to have acquired “OPL 245” through his own company named Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. This happened in 1998, a year before Nigeria transitioned to democracy again.
The first ‘red flag’ for this deal is that the Malabu Oil and Gas Limited company was incorporated just only five days before the said deal. The major shareholders of the company were the then President, Mohammed Sani Abacha, Kwaku Amafagha (a fake name coined by Dan Etete), and Hassan Hindu, a wife to a former Nigeria High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Investigations revealed that Dan Etete awarded himself (his company) the oil block illegally, and paid $2 million out of the $20 million that was required by the government. His company then sold the oil block to Shell and ENI in 2011 for $1.3 billion.
To complete their own end of the deal, Shell and ENI were said to have refused paying the money directly to Dan Etete, but rather sent it through the account of the Federal Government of Nigeria, domiciled in JP Morgan bank in London. The reason why they refused to complete the deal with Dan Etete was because he had an outstanding money laundering case in France.
The investigations show that $801 million from the money was later transferred into accounts controlled by Malabu and Etete in Nigeria, by the government of Goodluck Jonathan. After that, a good chunk of the money was shared among public officials as bribe, while the government got only $210 million designated as signature bonus on OPL 245.
The government officials who have been accused of receiving bribes from Malabu (through Etete) are the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, former petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and former Nigerian Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke.
In line with the investigations into the officials who took bribes, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), filed a nine-count charge against Adoke, SAN, and eight others in connection with the oil field scam.
The said deal and its nature have attracted the watchful eyes of many international bodies and agencies. One of such bodies is ‘Global Witness and Finance Uncovered’, which released a report that shows that the executives of Shell and ENI knew clearly that the money for the deal was eventually going to get to Etete.
In the face of criticism, Shell and ENI have made statements distancing their companies from any faults, although evidence contained in their emails with Etete shows otherwise.
In a statement made by a spokesman of Shell, Andy Norman, to New York Times, he said that “Over time, it became clear to us that Etete was involved in Malabu and that the inly way to resolve the impasse through a negotiated settlement was to engage with Etete and Malabu, whether we liked it or not.”
The arrest of Adoke and his prosecution in the months to follow will shed more light on this deal and those involved.