Members of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the investigation of the controversial transaction involving the award of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL 245) valued at $1.09 billion and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mohammed Bello Adoke traded hot words at the National Assembly yesterday.
Trouble started when MPs on the panel accused the AGF of circumventing the Federal Government's indigenisation policy by awarding the oil well to foreigners.
The visibly angry Adoke, however, objected to the line of questioning by the committee members, which, according to him, suggested that his actions in the oil licence deals were questionable and smacks of ulterior motives.
"I was not that irresponsible and I did not authorise the payment of money from the federation account to Malabu. The perception there was that the Attorney-General and Minister of State for Finance connived to pay some money to Malabu," the Justice Minister charged.
According to him, "I know where this question is coming from. Ask me and I will give you the answer. Am not a crook and I don't support crooks."
However, Rep. John Dyeign (ACN, Benue) fired back at him, saying, "you are calling yourself names, nobody is calling you such a name."
The committee has wondered what informed the decision of the Attorney General to facilitate agreement which ended up selling oil bloc 100 to Shell and Agip where as the indegenisation policy guiding the OPL 245 states that Nigerian interest should not be less than 60 per cent in order to encourage indigenous companies to grow and when there was pending petition before him over shares of Malabu.
"The petition came well after the issue has been resolved and I told the petitioners to take the matter to the appropriate agencies of government . The office of the Attorney-|General is not an investigative office," he replied.
However, Committee Chair and Deputy House Leader Rep. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) cautioned him to be careful of his words while in parliament, saying, "AGF, we are in the Green Chamber. We don't presume. We are here on a fact finding mission. Members can ask any question, no matter how foolish you presume it is."
"I cannot be unduly maligned by people who have been the architects of the ruins of this country," Adoke apologised.
The probe was instituted by the House in plenary last June after American media had reported that the Nigerian government "illegally" paid $1.09 billion to former Petroleum Minister Don Etete to relinquish the 100 per cent of Malabu in the OPL 245 which he only owned 30 per cent.