Oil majors - Shell and Eni yesterday reiterated that neither they nor their personnel had been involved in any wrongdoing in Nigeria, including improper payments to Nigerian officials.
The comments follow media reports alleging how millions of dollars from the two companies were used for illicit payments. A joint investigation by BuzzFeed News and Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore on Sunday claims to show transactions worth $1.3 billion made in 2010-2011 that Shell and Eni paid to acquire an exploration licence for an offshore oil block known as OPL 245.
The money was paid to the Nigerian government, but BuzzFeed and Il Sole said documents showed Shell's top executives at the time knew those sums would go to Malabu Oil and Gas, a front company connected to former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
Attempts by Reuters to contact Etete were unsuccessful. In e-mail comments, a spokesman for Eni said the allegations in the reports were not supported by the facts, the underlying agreements or the independent investigations conducted to date.
"Neither Eni nor Shell paid any monies other than as contemplated and recorded by the Block Resolution Agreement and did not pay to Malabu, to Chief Dan Etete or to any public officer," the spokesman said.
Shell said: "Based on our review of the prosecutor of Milan's file and all of the information and facts available to Shell, we do not believe that there is a basis to prosecute Shell. Furthermore, we are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee."
In an e-mailed statement, Shell added that if the evidence proves improper payments were made, "it is Shell's position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf."
Courts in Nigeria and Milan are investigating the 2011 purchase of the block, which industry figures suggest could hold more than 9 billion barrels of oil. Meanwhile, the National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency, NOSDRA, has said the magnitude of environmental degradation in Niger Delta needs equipment and facilities that would address the problem in the region.
Its Director General, Sir Peter Idabor, told The Guardian that the agency has no boat and equipment to work with; rather, they depend on oil companies to provide these vessels for its operations.
He said, since the inception of NOSDRA 11 years ago, they have a record of 9,000 cases oil spill reported by multi national oil firms, and 430,000 barrels lost in the incidences in the region.