Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Malabu Deal - Reps Probe of U.S.$1.1 Billion Proceed Stalled

The House of Representatives yesterday began its probe into the role played by the federal government and two multinational oil giants (Agip and Shell) in the alleged round tripping of proceeds in the sale of the contentious Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 in favour of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.

In a deal federal lawmakers described as "shady", reports fingered top presidency officials of perpetuating one of the biggest financial heists in the country's history, following the out of court settlement between the listed parties and the subsequent payment of $1.1 billion USD to Malabu Oil and Gas.

A Leo Ogor-led Ad hoc panel detailed to investigate the OPL deal, however, stopped the 2-day investigative public hearing midway after the ministries of Finance, the Petroleum Resources, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) all failed to produce all relevant documents connected to the contentious OPL deal as demanded by the panel via four letters.

Ogor, who doubles as the House deputy Majority Leader in canceling the probe, described the petroleum ministry as the "engine room" of the OPL 245 deal.

Proceeds from OPL sales, officially termed signature bonuses are expected to be remitted to the federation account, payments the panel is moving to verify.

Petroleum Minister Deziani Allison-Madueke told the House panel that she had not received the letters, but got the one from the committee to her demanding specific information on the OPL deal. She suggested that requests be directed to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

"We have a Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that holds all the licenses and they can make the documents available to the committee," she said.

Minister of State for Finance,YerimaNgama, who represented Okonjo-Iweala, asked for more time to prepare related document of the OPL deal to the committee.

The House Minority Whip,who is also member of the panel, Hon. Samson Osagie, queried excuses given by the petroleum minister.

According to him, "this is one transaction that worries a lot of people. Time is of essence and we need to get to the bottom of the matter. If they (referring to officials at the ministry) are hiding the letter away from you, the buck stops at your table."

Earlier, Speaker House of Representatives AminuWaziriTambuwal, represented by his deputy, EmekaIhedioha, when opening the public hearing, said the probe was necessitated by several petitions on the deal.

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