Multinational oil major, Eni (Nigerian Agip Oil Company) has said that it was not under obligation to know the destination of funds paid to Malabu Oil & Gas by the Nigerian Government in respect acquisition of Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245).
OPL 245, according to Eni covers a defined deep-water offshore area (over 1,000 m bsl), approximately 150 km off the Niger Delta.
On 29 April 1998, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), under the late General Sani Abacha awarded OPL 245 to the Nigerian company Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd., which counted Dan Etete, then Minister of Petroleum Resources, among its shareholders.
The signature bonus was set at $20 million. During the same period, the FGN awarded other prospecting licences to Nigerian companies, also with a signature bonus of around $20 million: OPL 246 to South Atlantic Petroleum, OPL 247 to Heritage Oil, and OPL 248 to Zebra Energy.
Nigeria’s then Defence Minister, General Theophilus Danjuma, Eni revealed, had interests in South Atlantic Petroleum, which he later sold to Total and other investors.
Previously, in 1991, the OPL 216 licence had been awarded to BP and Statoil (now Equinor), and was then claimed back by the FGN and awarded to Famfa Oil Ltd. instead.
All the exploration blocks, including Block 245, Eni claimed were awarded in accordance with the Indigenous Concession Programme (ICP), launched by the FGN in 1991 to encourage Nigerian companies to play a role in the country’s oil industry in view of local entrepreneurial development, as claimed by Professor Fidelis Oditah, Eni’s expert witness for the trial pending at the Court of Milan, without “substantial objections by the public prosecutor”.
In a statement, Eni said the contractual terms and the historical evolution of the local and international oil market does not require it to know the destination of the funds paid to the Malabu Oil & Gas by the Nigerian Government.
Besides, the company claimed that the payment was authorized by the British anti-money laundering authorities and that the allegation of bribes to Eni managers were denied by witnesses and experts in the courtroom, as well as by the Finance Guard itself in 2016.
“As part of the transaction, Eni complied with internal procedures, international best practices and implemented any industrial, economic and process verification”, the company said, and that these are the key facts it demonstrated in the dossier, with documentation and subpoena of supporting facts.
Eni noted that the development of OPL245 would have brought and would bring great economic and social benefits to the Nigerian people and that it corresponded directly to the Nigerian Government a fair and reasonable consideration with respect to the characteristics of the concession.
But in March 2013, the Italian NGO (non-governmental organisation) Re:Common, the British NGO The Corner House, the British/American NGO Global Witness, and Dotun Oloko, a Nigerian citizen based in the UK filed petitions with the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US, as well as with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in London, UK, requesting an investigation into the acquisition of the OPL 245 block by the oil companies Eni and Shell.
In September 2013, the same NGOs sent the petition to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan, requesting probe of the deal.
But not long ago, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) closed all their investigations without taking any action against the company.
Eni has also substantiated its fairness in the deal in a documentary supporting accurate internal investigations carried out on several occasions by independent third parties, which it said had in the past confirmed the correctness of the operation.
You can see the dossier supporting proof of its fairness here
Eni reiterates total alienation of its own and that of its management with respect to the trial charges, and trusts that the truth can be re-established as soon as possible by the Judicial Court.