Press Release / July 17, 2013

Global Witness comment in relation to Nigerian OPL-245 oil deal

There have been important developments relating to the US$1.1 billion deal for Nigeria’s prolific oil block, OPL-245. The deal for the block involved the ex-Nigerian Oil Minister, Dan Etete, a disgruntled middleman, the Nigerian Government and subsidiaries of two of the world’s largest oil companies – Shell and Eni – who paid US$1.1 billion to purchase the block in 2011.

Today, the UK High Court ruled in a case brought by the disgruntled middleman involved in the deal, a man named Emeka Obi, of Energy Venture Partners. He had brought the case against Dan Etete’s company, Malabu Oil and gas, claiming he was owed US$215 million for his part in brokering the lucrative deal on Malabu’s behalf. The judge has ruled that Obi should be paid at least $110.5 million by Malabu for his work on the deal.

Meanwhile, the Judge concluded that ex-oil Minister Dan Etete, who awarded the block to Malabu when he was Minister during the dictatorship of Sani Abacha in 1998, was in fact a hidden real, or “beneficial owner”, of Malabu, thus confirming the point that Etete awarded the block to himself.

“From Global Witness’s point of view, the decision before Court effectively came down to whether or not to give cash to a crook who had stolen the block worth over a billion dollars from the Nigerian people, or to the middleman who claims he brokered the deal to sell it on.” said Simon Taylor, Director at Global Witness. 

“Given that there are serious unanswered questions about the legality of OPL-245 deal, and the way it was put together, it is surely a scandal that the Court’s only consideration was where to send the money. The first question that should have been considered and fully investigated is to the legitimacy of the deal in the first place.”   

Global Witness believes the money being considered by the High Court today should remain frozen, and that the UK authorities should investigate this case.

For further details, including about Shell and Eni’s role in this deal, please see the Global Witness briefing ‘The Curious Case of Nigerian Oil Block OPL 245’