The FG seized Dan Etete’s $57 million private jet in June 2020. In September, the Buhari-led administration, asked a court in Milan to order Shell and Eni to pay the sum of $1.092 billion as advance payment for damages.
According to the contents of a letter which was made public last Thursday, the Nigerian government has hired top litigation firm, Franklin Wyatt Consulting to participate in discussions with Eni SpA over a long-standing legal tussle involving oil rights and allegations of bribery.
The letter, signed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva and addressed to Franklin Wyatt’s Managing Partner, Matthew Carey, gives the firm the authority to represent the petroleum ministry in the discussions.
Earlier this month, Eni SpA, an Italian multinational oil and gas company filed a request for arbitration against Nigeria at the World Bank, arguing that the country breached an investment agreement by hindering the company from exploiting an oilfield it acquired together with Royal Dutch Shell.
This development is the latest in the oil scandal that has been in the news for nearly a decade and has attracted international notoriety to all parties involved. In 2011, Nigeria awarded an offshore field, OPL 245, which had previously been allotted to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, to Eni and Shell for a total sum of $1.3 billion.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete had awarded OPL 245 to his company, Malabu Oil, while serving in the late General Sani Abacha Government but the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo had taken the oil bloc from Etete’s company as part of its investigation into sleaze of the Abacha-era.
In a deal brokered under the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in 2011, nearly a billion of the $1.3 billion paid to the Nigerian government was paid to Dan Etete’s Malabu, supposedly to forestall lawsuits over ownership of OPL 245. Shell and ENI maintain that they were not aware the money they paid to acquire the oil bloc would end up being paid to Mr. Etete.
In December 2016, Italian authorities charged former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete and 12 other Nigerians for engaging in money laundering while executing the OPL 245 deal. Executives of the two companies involved were also charged for handing out bribes worth about $801 million to Nigerian officials in exchange for being selected for the oil field.
Since then, the scandal has taken on new forms with several court cases. Initially undecided on what position to maintain, the Federal Government decided to institute legal proceedings against all parties involved. The FG seized Dan Etete’s $57 million private jet in June 2020. In September, the Buhari-led administration, asked a court in Milan to order Shell and Eni to pay the sum of $1.092 billion as advance payment for damages.
Eni’s World Bank case accuses the Nigerian government of hindering it from making profit from OPL 245 by refusing to grant a mining license and going ahead to pursue “unfounded claims” against the company.