APC’s Government Misadventure Over OPL 245 Responsible For Its Continuous Legal Failure


… has lost almost all the suits it instituted and wasting public funds

One of the worst things the current All Progressive Congress (APC) administration of  President  Muhammadu Buhari has done to the oil and gas industry has been the stagnation of the development of the Oil Prospecting Lease  (OPL) 245, prompted by evil and corrupt tendencies of it officers.

Its action over the assets is laden with vendetta aimed at certain people to the detriment of the economic interest of the country. It claimed it is waging war against corruption but it is worse than the government it took over from when it comes to corruption.

Before it came to power there was a settlement agreement that was open and transparent for everybody to see. So what is the purpose of wasting public funds if there is nothing there that is of pecuniary interest?

It instituted three cases on this matter, one in Milan, London, and in Nigeria. It has lost the first two cases and even the one in Nigeria because it is not sure it would win it has decided to slow down.

This government action according to industry sources is one of the main reasons why Shell and Eni are no longer interested in deploying their resources to the Nigerian industry but rather preferred to look elsewhere to push their money to, places where the business environment is better more conducive.

They have lost interest in Nigeria after so many wasted years on OPL245

The issue of OPL245  is alleged to have been the reason why the two companies involved have been dragging their foot in respect of investment in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Train 7, according to an industry stakeholder who spoke to Business Standards.

These companies have met all the necessary requirements to change the lease to an Oil Mining Lease (OML), but the government has refused to give them, saying that it would only do that after all the cases in courts have been resolved.  Can you imagine, a government that has become highly insolvent  and is looking for money and is driving those that could help it generate some revenues away

For seven years the president who is the Petroleum Minister sat on such a strategically important asset that should have been generating revenue for the country.

Nigerians has earned nothing in terms of revenue, also shell and Eni are not making anything because they have not been able to produce crude oil.

The Federal Government has wasted huge resources on legal matters that a layman would know she cannot win.  But led by uninformed legal advice, that is why the country has lost almost the legal cases, it had instituted in respect of OPL245.

The latest one is the$1.7billion suit the Federal Government instituted against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011.

In the judgement delivered on Tuesday, the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court said there was no proof that Nigeria was defrauded in the deal.

The Nigerian government had sued JP Morgan on the ground of “Quincecare duty”, alleging that the bank “ought to have known” that there was corruption and fraud in the transaction which saw Malabu sell its 100 percent in OPL 245 to Shell and Eni for $1.1 billion.

Nigeria argued that there were enough “red flags” for JP Morgan to have halted the transfers.

However, the bank rejected Nigeria’s claims, maintaining that all due processes were followed and money laundering checks were done, arguing that allegations of fraud only came up after a new government took over in Nigeria.

In the judgement, Sara Cockerill ruled that the Nigerian government could not prove that it had been defrauded, saying it may be that with the benefit of hindsight, “JPMorgan would have done things differently” but declared that “none of these things individually or collectively amount to triggering and then breaching” the bank’s duty of care to its client.

The case with OPL245 was concluded during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the companies Shell and Eni paid all the necessary signature bonuses to the government and also paid Malabu oil which rightly belongs to it. The money was paid through the Central Bank of Nigeria. It was such a transparent process of doing things. But this government got to power and without scrutinizing all that happened and headed to courts with the intention of making some people scapegoats by weaving the rope of corruption around their necks.

The legal cases which were unfortunately believed to have been influenced by corrupt government officials themselves were all lost with heavy money paid to the prosecutors.

The Federal Government in the course of looking for people to rope in the case also institute legal suit against the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Bello Adoke, alleging that he took bribes in the OPL 245 deal of 2011

JP Morgan Chase Bank also countered these claims by the Nigerian government in a United Kingdom court

The Federal Government is trying to prove that the legal agreements that led to the sale of OPL 245 by Malabu, the original allottees, to Shell and ENI were mired in corruption with particular focus on Adoke, who gave the legal advice that led to the resolution of the dispute over the oil block.

JP Morgan, in its opening submissions for trial at the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court, said: “No court, civil or criminal, in any jurisdiction has ever found that there was a fraudulent and corrupt scheme as now alleged.“On the contrary, the Italian criminal proceedings in which the defendants included many of the alleged participants in the scheme, including Mr. Etete, Shell, Eni, and various current or former employees of Shell and Eni resulted in all of the accused being acquitted of all.

“Despite the fact that the Federal Government accuses Shell and Eni of participating in the alleged fraudulent and corrupt scheme,  it has never taken any step to revoke the grant of OPL 245 to SNEPCO and NAE, or to rescind the Block 245 Resolution Agreement pursuant to which the grant was made. It has also advanced arguments in multiple proceedings, including before this court, which either relies on or is predicated on the validity of, the Resolution Agreements”

olusola Bello

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