Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered an interim forfeiture of oil prospecting licence (OPL 245) of Malabu oil.
The order will last pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, Nigerian Agip Exploration Ltd, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and other individuals named in connection with the act of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.
Justice Tsoho, who gave the order yesterday, also ordered the Department of Petroleum Resources to manage OPL 245 on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had approached the court yesterday following controversies and allegations of fraud associated with the licensing of the oil block.
In a 21-paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Ibrahim Ahmed, attached with an exparte originating summons, the commission stated that the prooerties attached are proceeds of crime that should be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC stated that the commission had taken the steps in public interest in view of the crimes and fraud against the economic interest of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
It said that sometime in April 1998, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was incorporated in Nigeria with shareholders Mohammed Sani fronting for the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Kwekwu Amafegha representing Dan Etete,the then minister of petroleum resources, and Hassan Hindu representing Ambassador Hassan Adamu.
It also stated that in the same month, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources offered the company Deep Water Oil Block Processing Licence in respect of OPL 245, and that in June 1998, Gen Abacha died and between 1999 and 2000, the corporate status and share holding structures were uttered severally through forged board resolutions which eventually divested Mohammed Sani of the shares while new shareholders and directors were appointed fraudulently.
Though the EFCC had earlier filed charges against some of the suspects, including the immediate past attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, the order obtained by the EFCC yesterday appeared to set the stage for the prosecution of more suspects.
The additional suspects named in the application are Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration Ltd, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd “and other individuals”.
Jonson Ojogbane, counsel to EFCC in the matter, said the suspects were being investigated “in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering”.
The EFCC had on December 20, 2016, charged nine suspects, including Adoke, with respect to the $1.1bn scam.
Other accused persons named in the charges filed by the EFCC before a Federal High Court in Abuja are Etete, Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, Group Construction Ltd, and Megatech Engineering Ltd.
The anti-graft agency, in the charges with suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, accused Adoke of illegally transferring over $800m purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, from a federal government account.
The EFCC also accused Aliyu, an oil magnate and chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336,456,906.78.