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OPL 245: Judge indicts Shell, ENI

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An Italian judge, Giusy Barbara, found yesterday that Eni and Royal Dutch Shell were fully aware that their 2011 purchase of Nigeria’s Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL 245) would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian politicians and officials.

Italy’s Eni and Shell bought the OPL 245 offshore field for about $1.3 billion from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited owned by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete, in a deal that spawned one of the oil industry’s largest corruption scandals.

It was alleged that about $1.1 billion of the money paid for the oil block was siphoned to agents and middlemen.
The Milan judge made the comment in her written reasons for the September conviction of a Nigerian, Mr. Emeka Obi and Italian, Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption.

They were jailed for four years.
“The management of oil companies Eni and Shell … were fully aware of the fact that part of the $1.092 billion paid would have been used to compensate Nigerian public officials who had a role in this matter and who were circling their prey like hungry sharks,” Barbara said in her reasoning.

“It was not mere connivance, but a conscious adhesion to a predatory project damaging the Nigerian state,” she added.
She also said money was given to some Eni managers.
Obi and Di Nardo have been tried separately from Eni and Shell, which also face corruption allegations over the same deal in a hearing that is expected to drag on for months.

But responding to the judge’s remarks, Eni said it would analyze the remarks, noting that a fuller account of the facts and evidence surrounding the deal would emerge only from the main trial.

The Italian company has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Eni shares fell slightly on the judge’s remarks but quickly recovered ground. Shell stock was barely changed.

Under the deal, Eni and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 field from a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete who, the judge noted, had been put under investigation in 2003 in France for alleged money-laundering.
Shell also said yesterday that neither Obi nor Di Nardo had worked for it and that there was no basis to convict it or any of its former staff of alleged offenses related to the oil deal.

Eni Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi, and four ex-Shell managers, including former Shell’s Head of Upstream, Malcolm Brinded, are also accused of international corruption in the main trial.

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Politics

EFCC investigating Okorocha

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is investigating the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha. The anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.


The Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu confirmed the investigation of the governor by the EFCC in an interview with Channels Television. Asked if an investigation is ongoing regarding the governor, he responded, “definitely”.
“Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there. We are investigating almost everybody,” he said.
He said the commission has to get to a certain level before it can disclose any information about an ongoing investigation.

Magu explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that can jeopardize or interfere with the process of the inquiry.
He said though he was aware of reports of the investigation on the social media, the details the anti-graft agency has is different from what is in the public space.

The anti-graft czar granted the interview in the United Kingdom where he traveled to meet with investigators assisting the federal government in solving cases of money laundering and financial crimes.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.

The EFCC further stated that N8 billion Paris Club loan refunded to the state for the payment of salaries was mismanaged by Okorocha.
The EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-east, Usman Imam, said this during a chat with journalists.
Imam said their timely intervention saved the state over N5 billion that would have been deployed in vote-buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.

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Naira Marley remanded in EFCC custody

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A Lagos Federal High Court yesterday remanded popular musician Azeez Fashola aka Naira Marley in prison following his arraignment for alleged credit card fraud. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) preferred an 11-count charge against him.

He pleaded not guilty before Justice Nicolas Oweibo, who adjourned hearing in his bail application till May 30.

Justice Oweibo said he would be in custody until his bail application is determined.
The offence, according to Section 33 (2) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015, carries seven years imprisonment.

Some of the credit cards, EFCC claimed, bore the names of Nicole Louise Malyon and Timea Fedorne Tatar.
The charge reads in part: “That you Azeez Adeshina Fashola aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 11th day of December 2018, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired to use Access card 42658840359191132 issued to persons other than you in a bid to obtain gain and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(1)(b) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 and punishable under Section 33(2) of the same Act.

“That you, Azeez Adeshina Fashola, aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 10th day of May 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, with intent to defraud possessed counterfeit card 4921819410257431 issued to Timea Fedorne Tatar and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 33(9) of Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

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Courts negates plans to remove senate leaders

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck suit that sought to prevent the removal of the leaders of the Senate in ways other than as provided in the Constitution.

In a judgment on Monday, Justice John Tsoho said the plaintiff – the Civil Society Observatory for Constitutional and Legal Compliance (CSOCLC), failed to establish its claim of plot to unlawfully remove the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu

The plaintiff had on August 29, 2018 after some security personnel laid to the residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu last year in an alleged attempt to prevent them from accessing the Senate chamber.

CSOCLC had claimed the incident was a plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the Senate, the executive arm of government and security agencies to harass Saraki and Ekweremadu with the aim of illegally removing them from office.

The plaintiff argued under Section 50(2) (c) of the Constitution, Saraki and Ekweremadu cannot be removed from office unless by a resolution of the Senate supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate.

Justice Tsoho, in the judgment on Monday, declined to grant any of the many reliefs sought by the plaintiff, including the one for an order of perpetual injunction stopping any plan to remove Saraki and Ekweremadu except by resolution backed by two-third majority votes of the Senate.

The judge noted that although not all the 110 respondents contested the suit, but stated that e plaintiff failed to prove the case with cogent and credible evidence.

Justice Tsoho said: “The plaintiff’s suit must succeed on the strength of its evidence and not on the weakness of the defence of the respondents.”

The judge was of the view that the newspaper reports presented before the court as the evidence of alleged threats of attempts to remove both Saraki and Ekweremadu through unconstitutional means in August 2018 lacked probative/evidential value.

“In law, newspaper reports are not generally admissible as the fact of what is recorded in them by virtue of section 37 of the Evidence Act,” the judge ruled.

Justice Tsoho stated that newspaper reports could be admissible as evidence of publication of a particular piece but not as the truth of the fact recorded in them.

He noted that relying on newspaper reports as evidence of the truth of an event amounted to relying on hearsay evidence which lacked evidential value.

The judge added that, although the prayers sought by the plaintiff were declaratory in nature, the plaintiff must establish its entitlement to them by adducing credible evidence.

“Applying the laws aforestated, it is crystal clear that in its bid to establish its case, the plaintiff has not shown any credible evidence in its affidavit to persuade this court in anyway,” Justice Tsoho said.

He added that “the burden” on the plaintiff “is quite heavy in view of the fact that declaratory relief is not granted even on admission by the respondents where the plaintiffs fail to establish its claims.

“Accordingly, all the prayers sought cannot be granted for want of credible evidence. They are hereby refused and the plaintiff’s suit is struck out,” the judge said.

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Presidential Election Petition Tribunal commenced hearing today

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The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, on Wednesday, commenced hearing in the petitions filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his party and three other political parties challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the 2019 presidential poll.

It also urged parties to shun actions that may put the panel in a negative light.

Chairman of the five-member panel, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who made the appeal, at the special sitting of the panel, specifically warned counsel and parties in the various petitions to avoid discussing daily proceedings of the tribunal in the media and other public space.

Bulkachuwa, however, warned that the tribunal would not hesitate to wield the big stick against anyone found culpable in that regard, adding that the task of the tribunal is a serious national assignment and must be seen as such by all.

The chairman who stressed that no matter how an election was conducted, there are bound to be complaints, hence the establishment of the tribunal to give speedy hearing on such complaints.

Bulkachuwa, disclosed that there are currently 786 petitions against the outcome of the 2019 general election, with Imo State having the highest number of 76 and 6 tribunals.

The presiding judge assured that the panel would be fair to all and would give equal time to all litigants, in its efforts at ensuring that justice is done and done expeditiously in all the cases before it.

Responding, counsels in the matters promised to play by the rules and give maximum cooperation to the panel.

While Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Levi Ozoukwu is leading the legal team of Atiku and the PDP, Wole Olanipekun SAN and Lateef Fagbemi SAN are leading that of Buhari and APC respectively.

Other members of the presidential panel include Justices Abdul Aboki, Samuel Osiji, Joseph Ikyegh and Peter Olabisi-Igeh.

The tribunal in stating that Proceedings would be on a daily basis called the first case, the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and his Presidential candidate, Chief Albert Owuru.

At the end of the identification and regularization of processes filed in the HDP petition, Justice Bulkachuwa fixed May 14 for pre-hearing of the petition.

For that of Atiku and PDP against INEC, Buhari and APC, the tribunal adjourned the matter to May 15.

However, the tribunal declined to give a definite date for hearing in the petition of Coalition for Change (C4C) and Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), following the inability of the two petitioners to serve processes on Buhari and other respondents.

Meanwhile, the tribunal declined to hear an exparte application filed by the C4C, praying for substituted service on President Buhari and his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, following flaws in the motion.

Among others, the tribunal found that the exparte application filed by Obed Agu, was not competent in law because it was not signed, and the seal of the counsel was not fixed as required by law. Adding that there was no affidavit in support of the motion.

Faced with the rejection, the counsel withdrew the application and told the tribunal that a fresh one would be filed in its place.

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