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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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SECURITY

Court adjourns the trial of El-Zakzaky, wife, till March 25

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A Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Gideon Kurada on Tuesday adjourned the trial of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiite, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, till March 25.

Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

El Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since December 2015, following clashes between his members and the Nigerian army in Zaria, Kaduna state.

They are standing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of public peace, among others.

They were earlier denied bail by Justice Kurada during the last sitting on the matter on November 7, 2018 on the grounds that the defendant failed to support their request for bail with enough medical evidence that would allow the court to exercise its discretion in his favour.

The matter was subsequently adjourned to January 22, 2019 for accelerated hearing.

When the case came up for mention on Tuesday, the prosecution lawyers led by Bayero Dari of the ministry of Justice, prayed the court to continue with the case, even though the authorities were yet to get hold of the other two accused persons under trial.

Lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Femi Falana (SAN), made no objection to the demand, but prayed the court to amend the charges to be KDSG vs Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, to which the presiding Judge agreed to.

Falana prayed the court to give a mandatory order for his clients to be flown abroad to receive proper medical attention since the government has glaringly failed to cure them of the injuries they sustained during the army’s onslaught on their residence in December, 2015.

Falana argued that Sheikh El Zakzaky had in January 2018, suffered stroke in detention and since the attack by the soldiers three years ago, he has not been allowed to optimally access healthcare.

He said El Zakzaky had lost his left eye as a result of the military bullets unleashed on him during the attack and stands the risk of losing his sight completely except if urgent medical attention is provided.

Falana added that the health situation of El Zakzaky’s wife Zeenat, had also deteriorated as she was experiencing severe excruciating pains due to the presence of shrapnel lodged in her body following the horrendous attacks by the Nigerian military.

While adjourning the case, Justice Gideon Kurada said the court cannot accede to the request of the defendant to travel abroad for medical treatment.

He however ordered that El Zakzaky should be allowed by the government to bring doctors of his choice to examine him in the presence of doctors from the government before the date of the next sitting.

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EFCC

Obanikoro testifies against Fayose

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A former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, on Monday, told a federal high court that money was given to former Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti from the impress account of a former National Security Adviser, in June 2014.

Obanikoro gave evidence in the trial of Fayose before Justice Mojisola Olaterogun in Lagos.

Fayose is facing charges of N6.9 billion fraud.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

The substantive trial began on Nov. 19, 2018, with the EFCC calling four witnesses.

On Monday, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second accused respectively.

Jacobs then called on Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, to give evidence.

The counsel led the former minister in evidence.

Jacobs asked him where he was in 2014 and he told the court that he was the Minister of State for Defence.

The counsel asked him to tell the court what he knew about the case.

The witness testified that in June 2014, when Ekiti State governorship election was near, he received a call from the accused, enquiring from him if there was any ‘message’ for him from the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.

The witness said that he told Fayose that there was none but promised to check with the NSA and give Fayose feedback.

He told the court that eventually, the NSA confirmed to him that he had a “message” for the accused and that the funds would be made available.

The prosecutor then showed the witness exhibit E to confirm if it was the account to which the funds were transferred, and the witness replied: “Yes”.

The witness told the court that on June 13, 2014, and June 16, 2014, funds were posted into the account, adding that the funds were from the impress account of the NSA.

He said that he asked the accused how he wanted the money, and he told him that some amounts should be paid in Naira and others in dollars.

According to him, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where one Agbele, sent by the accused, was on standby.

He testified that after confirmation from the accused, the money was taken to Ekiti.

The witness told the court that afterwards, he went to Ado-Ekiti to meet the accused in his hotel, known as Spotless, and gave him the dollar component which was five million dollars.

The prosecution counsel asked Obanikoro how many days it was to the Ekiti governorship election when he gave Fayose the money.

“About three days to the election,” the witness replied.

The prosecution also asked the former minister the source of the money.

“The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it is from the impress account of the NSA,” he said.

The counsel asked how the money was debited and the witness told the court that he gave instructions to the managing director of the Diamond bank, but was not available when the deductions were made.

When asked his connection with the accounts, Obanikoro said that it was used for security purposes, adding that he would not want to divulge further information on that.

After the evidence, the defence sought an adjournment to enable it to cross-examine the witness.

After several objections and counter objections, the judge granted an adjournment until Feb. 4, for cross-examination of Obanikoro.

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Politics

Human Rights: FFK drags EFCC to court

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Chief Femi Fani Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation and Secretary of Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin have dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to court to enforce their fundamental rights.

Femi-Fani-Kayode

Also joined in the suit are the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPS).

Prayers sought include, “A DECLARATION that the Respondent’s public declaration to arrest the Applicants on the bases of spreading false rumours, is an infringement of the Applicants rights and breach of their fundamental rights enshrined…” in the 1999 constitution (as amended).

And “AN ORDER enforcing the Applicants’ fundamental rights and ordering the Respondents to stop issuing threat of unlawful arrest…”

Also “AN ORDER OF INJUNCTION” protecting the Applicants from indiscriminate arrest by restraining the Respondents from threatening, harassing, intimidating, inviting, arresting or detaining the Applicants, by the Respondents, their privies or agents.

Chief Fani-Kayode, former minister of Aviation and Chief Odumakin, the Spokesman of the Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere demand for the sum of twenty million naira (N20m) “as damages for the unlawful threat” against them.

Barr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), former Attorney-General of Imo State, who swiftly filed the case in a couple of hours after been briefed, is standing in for both Chief Fani-Kayode and Chief Odumakin who are the plantiffs.

Earlier, the Spokesman of the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade, had publicly threatened to “invite both Femi Fani-Kayode and Odumakin” and if they fail to honour “the invitation within 48 hours” they will be arrested.

He added that if they honour the invitation but fail to give useful information they will be detained, then the commission will seek to “obtained a court order” to allow the EFCC detain them for a long period while investigating.

He claimed that it was Chief Fani-Kayode and Chief Odumakin that initiated the rumours through their tweet and video respectfully.

The Spokesman also vowed that despite that the video had been deleted and the tweet pulled down, with apology, the Commission will not forgive the duo because according to him, it was a serious issue capable of setting the country ablaze.

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Politics

Court grants Dino bail

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has granted bail to Senator Dino Melaye on health grounds.

Justice Yusuf Halilu in his ruling ordered Dino to produce three sureties including the Clark of the National Assembly who must produce a written undertaking to produce him in court.

The other sureties, the court ruled, must be residents of the FCT who have landed properties in Abuja.

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