Senate To Investigate $1.09bn Malabu Oil Deal

(m) at 20-07-2012 08:48AM (7 years ago)

(1213 | Gistmaniac)

ABUJA, July 19, (THEWILL) - The controversial Malabu Oil deal involving a $1.O9-billion sale of Oil bloc ‘OPL 245’ was the subject of intense controversy when it came up for discussion at the Senate yesterday, the legislators eventually agreeing to conduct extensive investigations into the transaction.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Abdul Ningi, who described as disturbing, persistent media reportage of the tripartite transaction involving the Federal Government, Shell/Agip; and Malabu Oil Gas Limited.

The debate over the motion became heated as senators argued over whether the investigation should be conducted by an ad hoc committee or by a standing committee.

In his lead debate, Senator Abdul Ningi, said the Senate was disturbed by recent intense media attention on the circumstances surrounding a tripartite transaction involving the Federal Government, Shell/Agip, and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in respect of Oil Bloc referred to as ‘OPL 245,’ to the effect that the Federal Government purported to sell OPL 245 to the Shell/Agip Consortium in the sum of $1,092,000,000.

“The media reports have raised legal and ethical issues surrounding the transaction and pattern of distribution of proceeds to beneficiaries,” he said. “If all these weighty allegations are ignored, Nigeria may be sanctioned by Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) for violating a global initiative to which it has a signatory and our image will further be eroded locally and internationally.”

He recalled that Nigeria, in 2003, signed up to EITI and began its implementation in 2004, also supporting the policy with the establishment of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act in 2007.

“We want to find out whether it is true that monies from the sale were paid to the Federation Account, whether the federal government agent, by his position, disbursed these monies, whether the government agent moved money from the federation account or the same agent has moved money from Keystone Bank. This has to do with finance, banking and currency; it has to do with crusade against corruption.”

Ningi recommended that the investigation should be conducted by an ad hoc committee instead of a standing, saying “I have no personal interest either to be part of this committee; it is the duty of the Senate to investigate the matter.”

This suggestion sparked division, Mark noting that it was improper to imply that only an ad hoc committee could conduct investigations on issues in the Senate.

“Let me say that no Senate committee is under investigation, so any Senate committee can do the assignment,” he said. “Any committee can do the job. I want to hear those who do not want this investigation to take place.”

Supporting the Motion, deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu said the matter should be investigated, recommending that the Senate’s selection committee should be allowed to determine which of the committees to handle the probe.

This position was supported by Senator Ayogu Eze, who noted that standing committees could do the work as much as an ad hoc committee.

Senator Ahmed Lawan, who supported the call for an investigation, maintained that it should go to an ad hoc committee, as the issue had to do with finance, petroleum and anti-corruption.

However, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri opposed the motion on grounds that the Senate, being the highest law-making body in the country, should not engage in looking into transactions involving two private concerns.

“I rise to oppose this motion in its roots, stem and branches. It is my contention that Senate, as the highest lawmaking body in the country, cannot be made to go on the voyage of discovery. A motion of this magnitude must contain sufficient facts to determine whether there should be an investigation in the first place,” he said.

“The body of the motion does not support the title of the motion. Both are at variance. The facts about this matter are correctly put before the public. Does this oil bloc belong to the federal government? The answer is no.”

He stated that late Gen. Sani Abacha alloted the oil blocs to private individuals and companies, which Malabu benefited from. He recalled, also, that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the oil bloc 245 and reallocated it to Shell.

“The case had gone to court, up to the Supreme Court, and judgment was delivered in favour of Malabu oil, which led to the return of the oil bloc to Malabu Oil and Gas,” he said.

“The Senate would be seen to be a meddlesome interloper in a problem between the private individuals in carrying out this investigation. If we must investigate this matter, then we should investigate the allocation of all oil blocs in this country since 1999.”

But Mark said it would be wrong to send the wrong impression that there is an issue that that the Senate is unwilling to touch, saying the rumpus generated by the issue was enough for it to be assigned to the selection committee.