A businessman, who is being grilled by the EFCC over the deal, is believed to have named a former Head of State, a former Senate President, a former National Security Adviser (NSA), some senators, and some serving and former members of the House of Representatives.
All the suspects may soon be invited for interrogation by the EFCC to determine their level of complicity, The Nation learnt at the weekend.
Besides the businessman, the EFCC has grilled a former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, and some chief executives of some International Oil Companies (IOCs). The suspects remain unnamed because of what a source described as the “sensitivity” of the matter.
The businessman may serve as a key witness because of his “deep insights”, the source said.
“The list is outside six former ministers who the EFCC was closing in on as at press time.
“We are looking into the accounts of some of those named in line with the timelines of the bribery,” an other source said, adding:
“Preliminary investigation has shown that the nation was shortchanged in the controversial $1.092bbillion Malabu Oil Block deal (OPL 245).
“At the appropriate time, we will begin interaction with all those connected with the Malabu Oil block deal.”
The EFCC is seeking the whereabouts of $1,092,040billion paid by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited (SNEPCO) and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (NAE) into an escrow account.
By the terms of Block 245 Resolution Agreement, Shell agreed to the release of the outstanding Signature Bonus and to appoint an escrow agent for paying the Federal Government $1,092,040billion.
It was learnt that NAE contributed $982,040,000 to the settlement. SNEPCO contributed $110,000,000 to make up the required $1,092,040billion for the Federal Government to settle all claims over OPL 245 in accordance with the agreement.
There were fears that the $1,092,040billion in an escrow Account was “used for the settlement of the FGN-Malabu Oil Limited agreement on OPL 245.”
The EFCC is trying to find out whether or not the cash was paid to the government or if the appointed escrow agent managed the $1,092,040billion and shared the cash to some beneficiaries for the settlement of dispute between the government and Malabu Oil Limited.
A former Permanent Secretary, who was quizzed by the EFCC, has been quoted as saying:
“I did not benefit from Malabu Oil in cash or kind. The memo I wrote was only in line of duty as a civil servant based on the directive of the supervising Minister. Some of us can beat our chest any day that we served this nation selflessly.
“Beyond the official memo, I had no contact with any person or group in whatsoever manner. Any action taken was in the best interest of this nation.
“The Minister also acted on a judgment by an international court in directing that a request for approval for payment to Malabu Oil Nigeria Limited be made to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.”
The controversy over OPL 245(Malabu Oil Block deal) started in April 1998 during the administration of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
But it spread to the governments of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Besides the judgment of a Federal High Court, the Federal Government of Nigeria(FGN) faced the challenge of an ICSD Arbitration instituted by Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited(SNUD) in which the company was claiming in excess of $2billion damages from the FGN for wrongful revocation of OPL 245 previously granted to it.
There were agreements between FGN and other parties on the oil block on November 30, 2006 and April 29, 2011.
Following fresh issues, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on June 17, 2013 directed that the complaints of Malabu Oil and Gas be looked into.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari developed interest in Malabu Oil deal following the ruling of a London Court judge, Justice Edis of the Southwark Crown Court, London, on December 14, 2015.
The judge stopped payment of N17billion to Malabu Oil and Company.
The judge said he was “not sure that the Goodluck Jonathan administration acted in the interest of Nigeria by approving the transfer of the money to Malabu.
He said: “I cannot simply assume that the FGN which was in power in 2011 and subsequently until 2015 rigorously defended the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects,” the judge ruled.”