The Malabu oil scandal, which began in 1998 under the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha, had the quartet of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau a former National Security Adviser; Mr. Dan Etete, former Petroleum Resources Minister; Russian President Putin and House of Representatives member, Umar Bature as lead actors at various stages.
The transaction, which birthed the scandal, began when the Abacha regime decided to encourage indigenous participation in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry. The regime allocated oil blocks to Nigerian companies at a reduced cost of $20 million per block.
Malabu oil company, owned by Mr. Etete, was awarded OPL 245 and made a part-payment of $2 million for a facility estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude oil. It subsequently brought in Shell as technical partners. The most scandalous part of the deal was not sealed until 2011 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The transaction suffered its first hitch in 2001 when the Obasanjo-led Federal Government revoked it. The Obasanjo administration then invited some international oil companies (IOCs) to bid for the block. Shell participated and won the bid. A sore Etete petitioned the Federal House of Representatives, which conducted a public hearing and concluded that the revocation of the transaction and sale to Shell were in bad faith.
The House passed a resolution that OPL 245 be returned to Malabu. The Federal Government ignored the resolution of the House, a situation that compelled Malabu went to take legal action in a series of litigation until 2006 when it reached an out-of-court settlement, which was subsequently reduced to a consent judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Shell also instituted litigation, but later decide to negotiate directly with Etete after former President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office in 2010.
Documents exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters from Italian prosecutors showed that Italian company, Snamprogetti (SPA) was convicted by a Milan court with the same facts with which Mr. Jack Tesler, a Briton, was successfully prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice in 2011. Mr. Tesler, who was arrested in the United Kingdom and extradited to the United States, was identified in the documents as a representative of a firm that received $130million from TSKJ, an international consortium, which he paid as bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials, including Mr. Etete.
Tesler, in a statement to the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of London Police, admitted on circumstances related to Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL 245) controversially awarded to Malabu Oil. These include the promise made by Mr. Umar Bature of $2million from Mr. Etete, which was a sum that came from the price paid for OPL 25. Tesler’s statement also included the fact that the sum was with a bureau de change in Abuja. Equally significant was that Tesler named General Gusau as the conduit through which the bribes were delivered. The former National Security Adviser was also mentioned in an email sent by John Copleston of Shell to Robinson Peter, also of Shell. The email showed that he was working unofficially on behalf of Shell to get concessions from members of the National Assembly discussing the Petroleum Industry Bill. Copleston wrote that he saw Gusau on 28 July 2009 and gave assurances. He also, according to the mail, told Copleston that Etete was ready to deal, as the Federal Government was planning to take the oil field back from him.
In a response to Copleston’s mail, Colgate Guy of Shell said Russian company US Rusal and Malabu met in London, with the meeting facilitated by Gusau. The former National Security Adviser, the email said, had met Mr. Edmond Agaev in 2008. Mr Agaev, a Russian diplomat had worked in Nigeria and was said to be close to former President Obasanjo, whom he brought close to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The story about Agaev in the deal revolves around the fact that when he was Russian Ambassador in Colombia, President Obasanjo spent months as his guest after he was released from prison in 1998. Agaev reportedly facilitated several meetings between Putin and Obasanjo up till 2007. During those meetings, Putin reportedly pressured Obasanjo to compensate Agaev for the hospitality given to shortly after his release from prison in 1998.
Investigations equally showed that Mr. Tesler was connected to MegaTech Engineering, a firm to whose account the sum of $180million was transferred on 29 August 2011 from the First Account of Malabu (2018288005). On receipt of the sum, MegaTech issued an invoice on 23 August 2011 broadly describing the payment as “investments for the telecommunications project in Abuja”. The invoice contained wooly details on the use of the paid sum. The sum of $80 million was allocated to provisions, construction and purchase of the site got $50million, installation, insurance and cleaning was awarded $20million, while human resources and supply of local goods was allocated $30million. MegaTech, prosecutors established, is controlled by Monument International Nigeria, which is in turn controlled by Monument International, a company registered in Gibraltar.
Mr. Nurudeen Mohammed Imam, otherwise known as Nura Alkali, a retired Air Vice Marshal and former Minister of Mines, Power and Steel was identified as the co-principal.
Mr. Tesler, stated prosecutors, was officially mandated to act on behalf of Monument in the purchase of a property at 39 Hyde Park, London. He was also found to have communicated periodically with the Gilbratar-based company. Prosecutors also found that documents at the Corporate Affairs Commission showed that MegaTech’s property purchased in 2011 was connected to Pioneer Communications Limited, a firm represented in the documents by Mr. Abubakar Aliyu, who was also the representative of other companies, which got most of the money Malabu paid to Eni.