Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke
By Onwuka Nzeshi
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, Friday in Abuja said the decision to transfer the controversial Malabu Oil bloc (OPL 245) to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company and Nigeria Agip Oil Company followed a transparent process.
The minister who painted a picture of how the federal government resolved the dispute at the second day of the public hearing organised by an Ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives on the transaction said, "it had no element of fraud as was insinuated in certain quarters".
Àdoke who was confronted with a barrage of questions on the transactions got furious at some point and told the lawmakers that he was not a crook and cannot be associated with any shady deals.
The House had expressed concern that the transaction breached the indigenisation policy as the oil bloc earlier awarded to an indigenous firm ended up in the hands of two multinationals.
The lawmakers also alluded to a possible rift in the board of Malabu and the sidelining of the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha from the enterprise.
But Adoke responded that the policy could not be taken in isolation, but must also take into consideration the circumstances and chequered history of the oil bloc including its award, revocation and re-award to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
Adoke said there was no truth in the allegation that he connived with another government official and authorised the payment of money from the federation account to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
"I am not irresponsible. I am not a crook and I don't support crooks. The petition came well after the issue has been resolved and I told the petitioners to take the matter to the appropriate agencies of government. The office of the attorney general is not an investigative office.
"This matter has been on for 12 years and these latter day claimants did not come forward to lay claim to the oil bloc. These latter day claimants waited till after the transaction had been resolved and the issue had become irreversible before writing a petition to the AGF. The AGF advised them to approach the relevant agencies, as the matter was an internal affair of Malabu. Yet they chose to do otherwise.
"I cannot be unduly maligned by people who have been the architects of the ruins of this country," he said.
In furtherance of the Indigenous Exploration Programme of the government to encourage effective development of indigenous capability in the upstream sector of the oil industry, Malabu and other indigenous oil companies were allocated oil blocks which they were expected to develop in partnership with international oil companies as technical partners.
Malabu was allocated OPL 245 in April 1998 and in accordance with the terms of the grant; if appointed SNUD as its Technical Partner. The two companies executed relevant agreements including a Joint" Operation Agreement in 2001.
Records indicate that SNUD took 40 percent participating interests in the venture in a farm-in- agreement.
Although, Malabu was issued a licence for Block 245 in April 2001, the government on 2nd July 2001 subsequently revoked the licence.