• Says payment was approved by Obasanjo’s government
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
A former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, has denied reports that he authorised the payment of $1.092billion signature bonus in respect of the controversial OPL 245, also known as Malabu oil deal, into an escrow account.
Adoke also noted that the payment into the account by Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) was approved by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo due to pending proceedings over the revocation of OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited (Malabu), the previous concessionaire of OPL 245.
The former minister made these assertions in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Alleged Corruption, Malpractice and Breach of Due Process in the award of OPL 245, Hon. Rasak Atunwa.
The committee, on Tuesday held a public hearing on the matter where the current AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had said there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Adoke, his Petroleum and Finance Ministry counterparts, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Mr. Olusegun Aganga, were fraudulently involved in the $1.092 billion controversial Malabu oil deal.
Malami had however said the payment of the money into an escrow account, instead of the Consolidate Revenue Fund, was illegal.
Adoke, in the letter said neither himself, nor the former ministers were responsible for the payment of the $1.092billion into the escrow account.
“Official records show that the escrow account under reference was opened pursuant to an escrow agreement dated December 22, 2003 between the Federal Government of Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase. Records also indicate that the payment of part of the signature bonus (US$ 209 million) by SNUD into an escrow account was approved by the administration of President Obasanjo, and the justification provided for the use of the escrow agreement mechanism was the pending proceedings over the revocation of OPL 245 by Malabu, the previous concessionaire of OPL 245,” he said.
The former minister wondered how he could be held responsible for a transaction that was completed on December 23, 2003, when he was appointed AGF in April 2010.
“For avoidance of doubt, I wish to reiterate the following facts contained in the memorial filed on behalf of SNUD before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID): “SNUD paid the signature bonus of US$210 million in December 2003, SNUD paid US$ 1 million via bank draft on December 23, 2003, SNUD paid the remaining US$209 million into an escrow pursuant to an escrow agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria (as represented by the Ministry of Finance) and JP Morgan Chase which was signed on 22 December 2003.
“The escrow agreement – a mechanism suggested by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, states that this solution was used in contemplation of proceedings over the revocation of OPL245 by the previous concessionaire of OPL 245,” Adoke said.
The former minister expressed hope that the ongoing investigations by the House, which conducted a similar one during the seventh assembly, would put a finality to the matter of OPL 245 which has been a matter of many investigations.
“Some of us have been unduly vilified and our hard earned reputations dragged to the mud by deliberate misinformation carefully orchestrated and choreographed to bring us to public odium and opprobrium,” Adoke added.