Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nigerian lawmakers want ex-president quizzed about oil deal

 

Abuja, Nigeria /AFP/. Nigerian lawmakers on Wednesday said former president Goodluck Jonathan should give evidence at an inquiry into an oil block deal that has become a shorthand for endemic graft.

The probe centres on the $1.3 billion sale of OPL 245, an oil block estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude, to petroleum giants Eni and Shell in 2011.

Both firms are facing corruption charges in Nigeria and are being investigated in Italy over the deal, which allegedly saw high-ranking government officials pocket bribes.

"It (is) imperative that evidence should be taken from former President Goodluck Jonathan," the National Assembly committee investigating the deal said in a statement.

Jonathan should testify because he was president "at the material time the ministers brokered the deal" and since his name features in the Italian investigation, it added.

A British court judgment also found that Jonathan did not act "in the best interest of Nigeria in relation to the deal", the lawmakers said.

The attorney-general of Nigeria at the time, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has since said in court that all of his actions were "instructed by former President Goodluck Jonathan".

The deal saw Abuja act as intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas, a Nigerian firm allegedly controlled by former petroleum minister Dan Etete.

Allegations of corruption and bribery have mounted in the years since the deal was signed.

Shell and Eni have repeatedly maintained they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law.

Jonathan has denied receiving kickbacks, saying in January that he has not been "accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting monies" linked to the deal.

He left office in 2015 after being defeated by Muhammadu Buhari, who campaigned on a platform to target rampant corruption and impunity.

Buhari said after taking office that "mind-boggling" sums had been stolen from the public purse over the years.

His government arrested a series of high-ranking officials from Jonathan's administration on corruption charges but few have been convicted.

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