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The Story of Dan Etete’s Oil Wealth: Revisiting OPL 245!


Though the Senate and House of Representatives have expressed the willingness to probe the sale of Nigeria’s biggest oil block, the OPL 245 which is believed to contain about 9 billion barrels of crude oil and unquantifiable gas reserves, nothing much has been heard from the lawmakers.

The image of both legislative arms of government has also not recovered from the devastating blow received in the wake of the Farouk Lawan bribery scandal. A former Head of States recently described the members of the House of Reps as “rogues”.

Though the probe may spark some fireworks judging by the calibre of the people involved. Street Journal however found out that Nigerians are not really expecting much from the probe as many of such probes have gone without any meaningful result in time past.

The oil block currently belongs to Shell and ENI, having paid $ 1.1 billion to Malabu Oil and Gas for it. The money was paid through the Federal Government. The funds were later disbursed by Malabu.

Findings at the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Malabu was registered in Aril 1998 and back then, the company had four directors, three of whom were shareholders in the company. The Directors were Mohammed Sani who held 10 million shares, Wabi Hassan with 4 million shares and Kweku Amafegha who held 6 million shares. The other director, Mohammed Aliyu Jabu served as a non-shareholding director.

It was however discovered that while Mohammed Sani was the name used by Mohammed Abacha, son of the Late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, Wabi Hassan happened to be the wife of Alhaji Hassan Adamu, while Aliyu Jabu also happened to be a close relation of Hassan Adamu, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States. Kweku Amafegha was a fictitious character created by Dan Etete to buy shares in Malabu.

The naming of the company was traced to the then Ambassador to the United States who incidentally hails from Adamawa State as there is a town in the state that goes by the name Malabu.

Malabu’s history is not uninteresting, two days after it was registered, the then Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete awarded two oil blocks to the company. The blocks were marked OPL 245 and OPL 214. The death of General Sani Abacha played a major role in the future of Malabu as it marked a new turn for the company. Mohammed Sani Abacha was tactically schemed out of Malabu. In July 1998, a month after Abacha’s death, Malabu’s Company Secretary, Rasky Gbinigie wrote a letter to the Corporate Affairs Commission stating that sequel to a Board of Directors’ meeting held on the 2nd June, Mohammed Sani had agreed to a 60% reduction of his shares and also decided to resign as a Director thus leaving Amafegha as the major shareholder.

Street Journal gathered that the meeting referred to in the Company Secretary’s letter to the Corporate Affairs Commission never held. A petition was also forwarded to the EFCC by Abacha’s lawyer making the same claim. The CAC approved the new constitution of the company on the 29th July, 1998 with Amafegha holding 10 million shares, Adamu 6 million, Sani 4 million and Aliyu Jabu was named as the company’s Managing Director.

Another amendment was made through a letter to the CAC, signed again by Gbinigie in January, 1999. The letter contained a resolution from a Board meeting of November 27, 1998, that showed that Malabu had a new structure with Aliyu Jabu now holding 16 million shares while one Seidougha Munamuna holds 4 million shares. Abacha and Adamu thus left the picture.

Meanwhile, Malabu had appointed Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) as Technical Partner.

Street Journal also found out that big time power brokers later emerged and there arose a scramble for the oil block which eventually led to the revocation of the block’s allocation by the Federal Government in 2001. The block became a “prize” in which the then President and his vice had personal interest. The Federal Government thereafter invited Exxon Mobil and Shell to bid for the same oil block, the reallocation of which spurred Dan Etete’s Malabu into a long legal battle.

The matter however reached an amicable solution last year with payments being made in favour of the company.

On August 16, 2011, the Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke and the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, coordinated the payment of a first tranche of $401.5million (N60billion) into a First Bank account 2018288005 belonging to Malabu.
They also coordinated the transfer of another $400millionn (N60billion) into a Bank PHB (now Keystone bank) account 3610042472 belonging to Malabu from a Nigerian government account with JP Morgan International Bank. The balance of the funds was reportedly lodged into Chief Dan Etete’s account with Zenith Bank.

Malabu received the money, the distribution began. Rocky Top Resources Limited, co-owned by Mr. Aliyu received $336 million (N50bn) from the Malabu Keystone Bank deposit. Other companies that got money from the Malabu curious transfers include A-Group Construction Company, also co-owned by Mr. Aliyu. It received $157mn (N24bn), while Novel Property and Development Limited, also co-owned by Mr. Aliyu got $30 million (N4.5bn).

Companies not linked to Mr. Aliyu but got money from Malabu include Mega Tech Engr Co. Ltd, which received $180 million (N27bn) and Imperial Union Limited, $34million (N5.1bn).
Though the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke has denied any underhand dealings in the payment to Etete’s company, it is being alleged that a number of top rated public officers got gratification while Etete has allegedly warmed himself into the heart of the Presidency.

A look into Chief Etete’s past revealed that not only does he know his ways around the corridors of power, he knows how to plot schemes to his own benefit. Years ago, Street Journal had extensively reported the Halliburton bribe scandal in which a subsidiary of the company had paid bribes up to $ 180 million to Nigerian officials in order to secure the contract of constructing a Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Nigeria. While testifying before French Court, Jeffrey Tessler, who channelled the bribes for the Halliburton and its subsidiaries named Dan Etete as one of the Nigerian officials that benefited from bribes he facilitated. While the former Nigerian Minister was sentenced and fined by a court in France, the case of the funds laundered never reached any logical conclusion in the Nigerian legal arena; an indication that Etete had strong collaborators who might be above the Nigerian law.

Not a few Nigerians believe Etete is one of those who capitalize on their positions to embark on personal aggrandizement. Such people are known to put their purses wherever they find Nigeria’s pockets leaking, unfortunately, almost all of them go unpunished.

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