- Shell, Agip seek discharge of seizure order on Malabu oil block
Alex Enumah in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
A Federal High Court sitting in Kano yesterday ordered the forfeiture of $9,772,000 and £74,000 recovered from a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Andrew Yakubu to the federal government.
The order was sequel to an ex parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking an interim forfeiture order of the recovered money to the federal government.
The ex parte application was moved by Salihu Sani, counsel for the applicant.
In her ruling, Justice Zainab B. Abubakar, who presided over the case, held that “the sum of $9,772,000 and £74,000 which are now in the custody of the applicant (EFCC) are in the interim forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria”
Earlier this month, acting on a tipoff, operatives of the commission had stormed a building belonging to the former NNPC boss and recovered the staggering sums stashed in a huge fireproof safe.
A few days after the discovery of the huge sums, Yakubu reported to the commission’s Kano zonal office where he admitted that he was the owner of both the house and the money recovered.
Yakubu is still in custody assisting the EFCC with its investigation.
Also, in another case, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd, a subsidiary of Italy’s Eni, and other individuals with interests in the Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245, yesterday asked the Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja to discharge the order of forfeiture, which it granted the EFCC).
Last month, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court had granted an order of interim forfeiture of OPL 245 to the federal government, pending the investigation and prosecution of suspects involved in the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil and Gas Limited deal.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, Prof. Olaniwun Ajayi (SAN), representing the Anglo-Dutch oil multinational, Shell, told the court that the first applicant had filed two applications.
One of the applications is seeking the discharge of the forfeiture order to the federal government which the court made, pending the conclusion of the matter.
According to him, Shell also wanted the court to dismiss or strike out the suit and grant an order of stay, injunction or suspension of the effects of the interim order made by the court in favour of the EFCC, directing that OPL 245 be managed by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) on behalf of the federal government, pending the conclusion of the investigation and prosecution of the case.
The counsel argued that the execution of the action by the EFCC constituted a gross abuse of office and process of the court, adding that the process of procuring the ex parte order was unconstitutional and unlawful.
In the application, the company held that the respondents misrepresented and suppressed the material facts in obtaining the order and prayed the court to discharge the order in the interest of justice.
A similar application urging the court to set aside its earlier order in the interest of justice was also filed by Babatunde Fapohunda, counsel to the second applicant, Agip.
The prosecuting counsel, Johnson Ojogbane, however told the court that he was unable to respond to the two applications due to what he described as circumstances beyond their control.
He asked the court for an adjournment to enable the prosecution to respond to the two applications.
However, Shell’s counsel reminded the court of the prosecution’s claim of the urgency and public’s interest in the matter.
He recalled that the application was filed over two weeks ago and wondered why the prosecution had failed to respond accordingly.
He urged the court to give a short adjournment given the urgency of the matter and the public interest the respondents attached to it.
Justice Tsoho adjourned the matter to February 27 to hear the two applications.
The judge had granted the order following an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC through Ojogbane.
Justice Tsoho also ordered that the said property be managed by the DPR on behalf of the federal government, pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution of all those involved in the transaction.