Alleged Malabu Oil Scam: Court Vacates Forfeiture Order

A Federal High Court in Abuja has set aside its interim forfeiture order it made in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the Malabu Oil deal.
Delivering ruling in two separate applications of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited and Agip Exploration Limited, Justice John Tsoho said the order of forfeiture ought not to have been granted the boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the first instance because he did not meet the required conditions to enjoy such forfeiture order.
Justice Tsoho also held that the EFCC Chairman was not the proper person that can invoke court jurisdiction for temporary order of forfeiture and that the subject matter, OPL 245, being an oil block is a tangible property not movable.
“I have taken a critical look into the processes filed and submissions by counsel to parties in the matter and I have come to the conclusion that Chairman of EFCC failed to meet conditions that can enable him enjoy order of temporary forfeiture.
“In effect, the order of temporary forfeiture of January 26, 2017 granted on the application of the EFCC Chairman is hereby set aside and vacated”, the Judge held.
“With the setting aside of the order of the temporary forfeiture, proceedings in respect of this matter here come to an end” the Judge said.
Justice Tsoho had on January 26 granted interim forfeiture order to the EFCC pending investigation and prosecution of suspects in the alleged $1.1bn Malabu Oil scam.
The controversial Oil Prospecting Licence 245, an oil block which was originally issued by the Federal Government to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and was later transferred to Shell and Agip.
The EFCC had described the transaction as fraudulent and obtained an ex parte order from Justice Tsoho for interim forfeiture of the OPL 245 to the Federal Government pending further investigation and prosecution of the suspects.
The affected parties, Shell and Agip Exploration Limited through their lawyers asked the Judge to discharge the order on the grounds that they were not given fair hearing.
The Judge also dismissed an application filed by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited to join in the suit, describing it as lawless and an abuse of court process.
In the ruling, justice Tsoho agreed with the contentions of both Shell’s and Agip’s lawyers that the ex-parte application upon which the interim forfeiture order was sought and obtained was irregular.
The Judge also held that ex-parte order does not last for ever, adding that the matter initiated by the EFCC had been closed and that any other further dispute relating to the OPL 245 should be resolved through a substantive action.
Counsel to the EFCC , Johnson Ojogbane, in the ex-parte application, had urged the court to grant the order pending the investigation and prosecution of the suspects.
The other suspects named in the application are Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd and other individuals.
The EFCC counsel had in the motion noted that the investigation bordered on alleged acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.
it will be recalled that the EFCC had in December 2016, charged nine suspects, including the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke, over the issue.
Adoke was accused of illegally transferring more than $800 million purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil.

Author: News Editor

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