The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said the United Kingdom has paid Nigeria the sum of $70m recovered from the Malabu oil controversial deal.
The $70m leaves an outstanding of $15m of the $85m which the AGF announced in October last year as the amount being expected to be recovered from the UK in respect of the deal.
Regarded as one of the most complicated and controversial oil deals in the world, the Malabu oil scandal surrounds the sale of Nigeria’s highly-lucrative Oil Processing Licence 245.
But Malami, who, last week, responded to various questions asked him said Nigeria was “making issues” out of the $15m shortfall.
Specifically, our correspondent asked the minister if it was true that President Muhammadu Buhari had overruled his reported advice that the trial of the immediate past AGF, Mr. Adoke Malami (SAN); a former Petroleum Resources Minister, Dan Etete; and other suspects be stopped due to lack of evidence.
His letter to the President last September reportedly requested that the trial of Adoke and other suspects be stopped and that instead of the trial, the Federal Government should enter into negotiations with various parties in the OPL 245, so that the exploration of the oil field could commence.
Malami said he had not asked the EFCC to stop the trial of the suspects but to carry out further investigations, describing the report that he advised that the President should order a stop of the trial as mischievous.
The AGF, whose response dwelt on another letter by him to the EFCC, said, “It was never about not prosecuting but enhancing investigation.”
He said his letter to the EFCC was a directive to the acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, requesting that further investigations be conducted into the scam and ensuring that legal action was instituted in the UK to freeze the $1.1bn proceeds of the scandal.
He said, “The narrative was mischievous and not borne out of conclusions derivable from the two letters of the Attorney General and Acting Chairman EFCC.
“The position conveyed to the EFCC was a directive to enhance the quality of investigation and file mareva injunction to freeze the $1.1bn in convention while the case was being prosecuted.”
According to Malami, his office took up the option of pursuing a freezing order, which had so far yielded the recovery of over $70m, because the EFCC allegedly refused to take the step.
“The freezing option not utilised by the EFCC had already yielded fruit with the Office of the Attorney General recovering part of it in the UK where over $70,000,000 was already recovered,” Malami said.
A statement by the AGF’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, had quoted parts of the minister’s speech at the Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery consultative meeting held in October last year in Abuja that the sum of $85m had been recovered from the UK in respect of the Malabu deal.
The minister had also said at the meeting that the Federal Government had concluded talks with Switzerland on the return of $321m looted by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Asked what brought about the shortfall of the $15m eventually paid to Nigeria by the UK in respect of the Malabu deal, Malami said there were deductions made by the British government.
“There were deductions at the end, and the amount so far remitted is over $70m, even though we are making issues out of the balance,” the AGF said.
The Malabu scam centres on the OPL 245, which Etete, as the then Minister of Petroleum Resources in 1998, awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas.
Malabu, under the control of Etete, later sold the OPL 245 to Royal Dutch Shell and Eni.
The Nigerian government acted in the deal as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas.
The two oil majors, Shell and Eni, are accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of the OPL 245, an offshore oil block in Nigeria estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude.