Minister for Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN)
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), Wednesday said his office did not act contrary to public interest in facilitating the settlement of the commercial dispute involving the federal government and Shell/Agip Companies and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in respect of Oil Block OPL 245.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Ambrose Momoh, Adoke said he was ready to be subjected to any transparent investigative process in order to unearth the truth.
Adoke said duting the transaction, he ensured that the settlement was conducted in the best interest of all parties in order to achieve a reasonable, fair and equitable outcome.
The statement was a reaction to the report of a committee of the House of Representatives which investigated the Malabu oil settlement.
The minister said the report and the controversy it had generated was a calculated attempt to bring his office and that of the other relevant agencies of government to infamy because of the principled stance the government took to resolve the dispute in a reasonable, fair and equitable manner.
He said: “The outrage against the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation is understandable when viewed against his refusal to compromise his office in order to satisfy the demands of certain interests and individuals.
“We know those who have compromised their positions in order to author the alleged ‘Report’ and their theatrical display for public gallery. We also know those secretly beating the drums for masquerades dancing in the market square. We shall confront them at the appropriate forum.
“How else can one explain why the ownership of shares in a private company would generate sufficient interest among members of the legislature so as to merit a resolution of a committee that certain persons or companies are entitled to ownership of shares in a private company, when the courts are the appropriate venue for the ventilation of such disputes between share holders (if any).”
He also disputed claims that he said the report of the committee favoured him, adding that after he appeared before the House committee and stated his role that the committee then became satisfied with his response.
“When the AGF appeared before the House Committee, which investigated the transaction, he explained his role in facilitating the settlement and the committee members were satisfied with his explanations. This was what the AGF referred to when he stated that the committee was satisfied with his explanations,” the statement added.
He said he did not make reference to any ‘Report’ of the Committee, as none had been made available to him.
Adoke narrated the facts leading to the decision of the federal government under the leadership of both the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to intervene and resolve the Malabu oil dispute.
He said: “In 2010, when this administration came to power, Malabu again, petitioned the federal government to implement the terms of the out-of-court settlement of November 30, 2006 on the basis of which they had discontinued their appeal. Government also took cognisance of the pending cases instituted by SNUD against, federal government and/or Malabu, including Bilateral Investment (BIT) arbitration No. ARB/07/18 pending at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Arbitration) to enforce SNUD’s rights to exclusively operate Block 245 as Contractor on the basis of the 2003 Production Sharing Contract (PSC) between NNPC and SNUD, and the financial implications of defending these actions on the public purse and opted for amicable resolution of the dispute.
“To resolve all the contending claims in a satisfactory and holistic manner, due regard was given to the Terms of Settlement of November 30, 2006 which had been reduced to orders of the court, the underlying policy of encouraging the participation indigenous oil and gas companies in the upstream sector of the oil industry and the fact that Shell had substantially de-risked Block 245. To accommodate all these interests, a Resolution Agreement dated April 29, 2011 between the federal government and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited was executed wherein the federal government agreed to resolve all the issues with Malabu in respect of Block 245 amicably and Malabu also agreed that in consideration of receiving compensation from the FGN it would settle and waive any and all claims to any interest in OPL 245.
“In furtherance of the Resolution Agreement, SNUD and ENI agreed to pay Malabu through the federal government acting as an obligor, the sum of US$ 1,092,040,000 in full and final settlement of any and all claims, interests or rights relating to or in connection with Block 245 and Malabu agreed to settle and waive any and all claims, interests or rights relating to or in connection with Block 245 and also consented to the re-allocation of Block 245 to Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited (NAE) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCO).”
He said the role played by the federal government, its agencies and officials in relation to Block 245 was essentially that of facilitator of the resolution of a long standing dispute between Malabu and SNUD over the ownership and right to operate Block 245.
According to him, during the resolution of the dispute, the federal government was not aware of any subsisting third party interest in Malabu’s claim to OPL 245 and neither did any person or company apply to be joined in the negotiations as an interested party until the resolution of the dispute was concluded.
He said: “The Office of the AGF had in the recent past reiterated government’s commitment to attract investment in the oil and gas sector of the economy and encourage genuine investors (local and foreign) by creating the enabling environment for their business to thrive.”
He said the resolution of the lingering dispute over Block 245 was in furtherance of that objective.