Vanguard News / Nwafor Polycap
The Federal Government has told a UK High Court that the transfer of over $800 million to accounts controlled by Dan Etete from its account was done in contravention of Nigerian laws, according to a document in the possession of online portal, Premium Times.
Etete and Adoke
The money was part of the $1.1 billion paid by Shell and ENI for OPL 245, considered one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
Although the government sought to transfer the total sum to Mr. Etete’s accounts, suits filed by middlemen seeking payments for services allegedly rendered during negotiation meant the government could only transfer $801 million of the money.
About $110.5 million was transferred to a Swiss account after one of the middlemen, Emeka Obi, won his case against Malabu, while $85 million remained stuck in the UK, following a court ruling.
According to an online portal, it was in a bid to retrieve the $85 million that the Federal Government filed its suit at the High Court of Justice, Admiralty and Commercial Court in the UK in October 2016.
Former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, who authorised the transfer in 2011, following a controversial agreement with Malabu and another with Shell and ENI, has repeatedly maintained that he acted in the best interest of the Federal Government on the matter.
However, in a notice filed at the British Court, the Federal Government argued that the transfer of the funds was in contravention of Nigerian laws.
“Those funds should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund of the Government of Nigeria, following the grant of an oil exploration license to a foreign oil consortium,” the government argued.
The federal government argued that based on Section 80 (1), of the Nigerian constitution, all such monies should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund
“All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation,” the section states.
The government argued that it was, therefore, illegal for the Goodluck Jonathan administration to have opened a separate Escrow Account in JP Morgan bank in London into which the $1.1 billion was paid.
Even after receiving the money in the escrow account, the government argued, it should have been transferred directly into the Consolidated Fund.
Apart from the illegality of the account into which the money was paid, the federal government also argued that Mr. Etete illegally secured the oil block for Malabu in 1998, at a time he served as petroleum minister under late dictator, Sani Abacha.
The government said Etete’s action violated Section 98 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act 1990 which makes it a criminal offence for any public official to corruptly obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person in the discharge of his official duties.
It also argued that Mr. Etete’s conduct in the use of Malabu as a front breached the code of conduct for public officials.
Section 5 of the Nigerian Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991 provides that “a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”
The government equally argued that the failure of Malabu to pay any fee in 1998 when the block was awarded to it and also its failure to pay a $210 million signature bonus in 2016 was also illegal and further meant it had no right to the block.