The President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government has pointedly accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of receiving bribe in the infamous Malabu oil deal of 2011, and conspiring with Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Petroleum Resources Minister, to defraud Nigeria.

Mrs. Alison-Madueke fled Nigeria for the UK soon after Buhari won the 2015 presidential election.

Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke addresses delegates at the opening of the Nigeira Oil & Gas 2014 conference in a file photo
Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke addresses delegates at the opening of the Nigeira Oil & Gas 2014 conference in a file photo

The Malabu oil deal has been the subject of litigation in international courts for years now. Investigators say Shell and Eni paid the Goodluck Jonathan administration $1.3billion for the development of OPL (Oil Producing License) 245. 

What is the Malabu oil deal

Marooned in Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region, OPL 245 contains about 9 billion barrels of crude oil and is widely regarded as one of Africa’s richest oil blocs.

Using the powers of his office, investigators say, Dan Etete, who served as General Sani Abacha’s oil minister in 1998, illicitly awarded OPL 245 to himself through his company, Malabu Oil and Gas.

It was at a time when the federal government was encouraging indigenous companies to acquire oil blocs at a reduced signature bonus of $20 million.

Chief Dan Etete served as oil minister under Sani Abacha in the '90s. (SaharaReporters)
Chief Dan Etete served as oil minister under Sani Abacha in the '90s. (SaharaReporters)

On July 2, 2001, democratically elected President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked Malabu’s ownership of OPL 245 and awarded the oil bloc to Shell without making the process public. Malabu would go on to challenge the award of the bloc to Shell in court. 

In 2006, following an out of court settlement, OPL 245 was returned to Malabu. 

In 2011, Shell and Eni paid for the oil field. Because they did not want to deal directly with Etete who had been convicted in France for his part in a separate money laundering scheme, Shell and Eni wired the money to an account belonging to the federal government of Nigeria domiciled with JP Morgan bank, London.

Investigators say Shell and Eni paid the Goodluck Jonathan administration $1.3billion for OPL 245. 

According to the case file, the federal government of Nigeria under Jonathan, thereafter transferred $801million of the money into accounts controlled by Malabu and Etete in Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Al Jazeera shortly before the 2015 election (Al Jazeera)
President Goodluck Jonathan on Al Jazeera shortly before the 2015 election (Al Jazeera)

Investigators say the money was then shared to various public officials and cronies in Nigeria as bribes; with the Nigerian government receiving only $210m USD as signature bonus on OPL 245.

Buhari lawyers name Jonathan, Diezani

According to a Reuters report, in recent papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni concerning the deal, lawyers for the Nigerian government said “Jonathan and former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired to “receive bribes and make a secret profit”, keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal”.

In the London court papers seen by Reuters, the Nigerian government is accusing former President Jonathan and Diezani of accepting bribes and breaking the country’s laws to broker the $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago.

“Bribes were paid. The receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law”, the court papers filed by Nigeria, read.

President Goodluck Jonathan presents handover documents to President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 (Presidency)
President Goodluck Jonathan presents handover documents to President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 (Presidency)

The 2011 Malabu oil deal is also the subject of a corruption trial in Milan, in which two middlemen have been convicted and former and current Shell and Eni officials are also on trial.

In the London court filing, the Buhari led federal government said it only received a $209 million signature bonus in relation to the deal, and that it estimates the value of the oilfield to have been “at least $3.5 billion”. It said it would seek to calculate damages on that basis.

Suing JP Morgan

In January 2018, the federal government of Nigeria sued "JP Morgan Chase for more than $875million, accusing the bank of negligence in transferring funds from a disputed 2011 oilfield deal to a company controlled by the country’s former oil minister”.

The federal government had stated in its suit that: “JP Morgan acted with gross negligence by allowing the transfer of the money without further checks”.

Nigeria sues JP Morgan for $875 million over Dan Etete bank transfer (New York Times)
Nigeria sues JP Morgan for $875 million over Dan Etete bank transfer (New York Times)

The government posits that JP Morgan should have known that, under Nigerian law, the money should never have been transferred to a third party.

Oil rich Nigeria has been plagued with corruption and sharp practices in the management of its resources. Oil accounts for around 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.

Jonathan is yet to react to the allegations in the public domain.