The House of Representatives resolved on Wednesday to invite former President Goodluck Jonathan to testify in the ongoing investigations into the controversial sale of Oil Prospecting Licence 245.
Better known as $1.1bn Malabu Oil deal, an ad hoc committee of the House has been investigating the alleged diversion of the money, which was the Federal Government’s share of the deal.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kwara State, Mr. Razak Atunwa.
In making its decision to invite Jonathan public on Wednesday in Abuja, Atunwa stated that certain information in public domain had made the need to hear from the former President necessary before the probe could be considered conclusive.
He explained that hearing from Jonathan was also an indication that “thoroughness, natural justice and fair play” were applied in the investigation.
Atunwa stated, “Mr. Jonathan was the President at the material time that (his cabinet) ministers brokered the deal that led to the allegation of $1bn diversion of funds.
“Mr. Jonathan’s name features in the proceedings initiated by the Public Prosecutor of Milan in Italy.
“A United Kingdom court judgment in relation to an application to return part of the money being investigated, castigated the Jonathan administration as not having acted in the best interest of Nigeria in relation to the ‘deal’.
“The Attorney General of the Federation at the material time, Mohammed Bello-Adoke, has recently instituted proceedings in court wherein he pleads that all his actions were as instructed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of the (1999) Constitution, the committee has decided to request that former President Goodluck Jonathan give evidence as to his role in the matter.”
He added that the secretariat of the committee had been directed to write to Jonathan, “asking for his response and submission.”
When asked whether this meant that Jonathan would come personally before the committee or the committee would meet him at a location chosen by the former President, Atunwa replied that what was most important was to write to him.
“There are parliamentary procedures, so we don’t jump the gun. What we have said here is to ask for his response. When he responds, that is when we go further.
“At this material point, we have invited him and that is where the case will rest for now,” he added.
The House had first investigated the deal in the 7th Assembly (2011-2015).
Not satisfied with the outcome of the probe, the current 8th House revisited it.
This second phase of the probe was launched in October 2016 with the committee taking representations from Shell, Agip and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It also received the submissions of the current AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, among others.
However, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources in the Jonathan administration, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Bello-Adoke reportedly shunned the panel.
According to the House, OPL 245 occupies an area of 1,958 square kilometres and holds up to “9.2billion” barrels of crude oil.
Recalling how the deal started, the committee said Chief Dan Etete, a former minister in the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, awarded the block to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas.
“He awarded it to himself for just $20m, out of which he paid only $2m,” the committee stated.
It added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the block, and later sold it to Shell at $210m, a development, which sparked off a series of legal tussles.
The committee recalled that while Malabu was still in court, Bello-Adoke and Alison-Madueke were alleged to have “contrived a series of complex agreements of a questionable nature.”
It added, “The summary of the agreement was that Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1bn to the Federal Government for the oil block.”
However, instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, the committee stated that Bello-Adoke and Alison-Madueke “caused the money to be transferred to Malabu, which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.
“In this regard, it is alleged that companies, such as A. A. Oil Limited, were engaged to launder the funds.”
The committee viewed the development as unacceptable, arguing that “Nigeria and its citizens may be said to have been short-changed to the tune of $1.1bn.”
The committee stated, “As we sit here today, $110m is being held by the UK authorities from the fund as proceeds of corruption from Nigeria.
“Italian prosecutors have also requested that money from that deal in Swiss accounts should be frozen.
“So, Nigeria folds its alms while other countries protect its interest? Nigeria is the victim.”
But, Malami, in his submissions to the committee in December 2016, claimed that the Federal Government could not prosecute Alison-Madueke , Bello-Adoke and a former Minister of Finance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, because of lack of sufficient evidence to nail the three former ministers.
Malami added that though Bello-Adoke had made written submissions, he had “not made himself available.”
The AGF, however, admitted before the committee that the payment of over $1.09bn into an escrow account by the three former government officials was illegal, explaining that the money ought to have been remitted into the Federation Account.
Attempts to get comments of ex-President Jonathan on his invitation by the committee were not successful as calls made to the mobile phone of his Media Adviser, Mr Ikechukwu Eze, did not connect while a text message sent to him had yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report on Wednesday.
Culled from the Punch