Malabu Oil Bloc Fraud: Obasanjo And The Unruliness Of Self-Exoneration By Ifeanyi Izeze

Don’t get it twisted: this article is not for or against the serially blurred transactions in the OPL 245 Malabu oil bloc controversy. It is against former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s grandstanding and self-exoneration in the fraud, adding to the awkwardness of the characters of the people that rule this country and their absurdities.

Two questions Nigerians should ask Gen. Obasanjo: who was Nigeria’s president and petroleum minister in 2001 when the prospecting license of oil bloc OPL 245 was revoked and ownership reverted to the federal government? Who was Nigeria’s president and petroleum minister in 2006 when, after a series of negotiations, the license was restored and ownership of the oil block reverted to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited? We always miss the point and end up wasting time investigating issues that logically lead us to nowhere.

Was it not the height of irresponsibility for the elder statesman, who was both president and petroleum minister at the time of the controversial resolution of the ownership dispute around the oil bloc, to say in a recent interview that he considered the controversial award of OPL 245 oil field license as the “height of corruption,” and could not have participated in negotiations that led to the deal?

Yes, it was Abacha’s government that conceived the original fraud in 1998, but we have since gone beyond that in the integrity issues at stake in this matter.

Who would ever believe that this Obasanjo we know cannot remember ordering and/or signing any resolution involving a multi-billion dollar oil deal even when he doubled as both president and petroleum minister? How long can we continue like this as a nation?

Is it this Obasanjo who is a well-known micro manager or another one? This is very awkward. The Nigerian constitution practically makes the president the only authority that can grant or revoke oil bloc ownership in Nigeria. It is very clever for former President Obasanjo to say he can’t remember, but is anybody deceived? Saying you can’t remember giving approval is not the same as saying that you did not give approval. You could have given approval and not remembered doing so. And how can we know what you chose to remember or forget when we are not God?

Either Obasanjo lied or wants us to believe he was so grossly detached from his own administration to have a multi-billion dollar transaction (settlement, or rather peace deal) go down under his nose and he knew nothing about it. It’s the same thing with the Halliburton scandal and the sale of federal government assets; he knew nothing then and he knows nothing now. Haba ranka de de! Yet it is still a mystery how a man that said he had only N20,000 to his name when he was released from prison in 1998 could have become a multi-billionaire in dollars just within eight short years of service to his country. Gen. Obasanjo should stop insulting our sensibilities and answer to the charges against him.

Is it not curious that 19 years after it was first awarded, OPL 245 has continued to generate controversy?

The reason is very obvious. OPL 245 is located on the southern edge of the Niger Delta, in water depths ranging from 1,700 to 2,000 meters. The bloc holds significant discovered hydrocarbon reserves and is thought to be very prospective. Two oil and gas discoveries have been made on the bloc. Etan and Zabazaba were discovered in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Eni plans to develop the Etan and Zabazaba fields in phases with subsea wells tied-back to a leased floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel. The bloc, considered the richest in Africa, is estimated to contain over 9 billion barrels of crude and even larger volume of gas reserves. For comparison, at Nigeria’s current OPEC oil output quota of 2.2 million barrels per day, OPL 245 alone can provide all Nigeria’s daily oil production needs for over 15 years.

Malabu Oil and Gas Limited was formed on April 20, 1998 and was only nine days old when Abacha government awarded the company the most prolific oil bloc in Africa.

Is Obasanjo claiming that he cannot also remember that following the out of court settlement which took place under him as president and oil minister that there were two agreements signed?

First there was the Malabu Resolution Agreement, which supposedly settled all claims to the OPL 245 between the federal government and Malabu Oil and Gas for a consideration of $1.1 billion.

Second was the OPL 245 Resolution Agreement. This agreement was between the oil majors – SNEPCO, SNUD, ENI, NNPC and the Federal Government accepting the OPL 245 for a consideration of $1.1 billion to be paid to Malabu. In this agreement, the federal government took care of its Signature Bonus which was paid by SNEPCO on behalf of SNUD (being an affiliate of SNEPCO).

The Federal Government’s role in the second agreement was to take the money paid for the license by Shell and Eni and transfer it to Malabu Oil and Gas. The money was never owned by the government either as payment for exploration license, royalties or any fee whatsoever. So technically, the funds belonged to Malabu. Was this the reason why Shell and Eni paid directly to the Federal Government and the government immediately wired the money to Malabu?

Yes, as claimed by former President Obasanjo. He was really angry with the initial award of the OPL 245 rights to Etete and the Abacha family under the Malabu conscription, but as alleged, he revoked the initial license in 2001 with the intention of grabbing the oil bloc for himself and a few others. But this did not work out as planned. The series of negotiations and renegotiations between 2001 and 2006 only ended up introducing Obasanjo into the ownership structure of OPL 245 and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. How did Otunba Oyewole Fasawe enter into the ownership structure of Malabu Oil and Gas the contending owner of the prolific OPL 245? And whose interest if Otunba Fasawe representing in the business? Abeg make all of una go sit down!

Surprisingly, no one is asking why it took the Abachas and Fasawe 10 years after the first resolution agreement and 6 years after the payment to file their claim. As remarked by a brother, Innih, except as we have today, which other form of government could Mohammed Abacha have garnered the audacity to go to court over what was stolen in the first place?

We are gradually getting to the bottom of this matter, as Mohammed Abacha in an interview has already threatened that Nigerians would be shocked to hear some ugly details of deals around the Malabu oil bloc controversy and the prominent names involved. God bless Nigeria!

Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. You can reach him at

iizeze@yahoo.com .

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