21 December 2017

 In 2011, oil giants Shell and Eni, purchased an oil block in Nigeria estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude at a price of $1.3 billion. A judge in Milan has ordered Eni, Shell and current and former Eni directors to stand trial on accusations of corruption about this deal. Eleven individuals have been indicted. Prosecutors allege the two companies paid $1.1 billion into a Nigerian government account and the money was then distributed as payoffs. Just $210 million from the deal is believed to have reached the Nigerian government.

The prosecution claim that the oil companies used a Nigerian middleman, a former oil minister Dan Etete, to pay the bribe.

The oil block which was bought by the oil companies was also claimed by a company called Malabu Oil and Gas. The $1.1 billion payment made to the government was paid to settle Malabu’s claims. Etete was already convicted for money laundering in France. Malabu Oil and Gas was set up in 1998 by Etete using a false identity to award himself the lucrative oil block, for which he paid only $2m of the $20m legally required by the state.

According to The Economist’s reports only $800m out of the $1.1bn meant for Malabu Oil and Gas was ever remitted by the Nigerian government. The balance money was distributed among public officials. The Nigerian Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, signed the documents involved in facilitating the payments. He denied that the balance money was shared by the government officials.

Eni and Shell are also facing criminal charges in Nigeria where former president Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister allegedly took bribes. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said “mind-boggling” sums have been stolen from state funds.

Although President Muhammadu Buhari makes so much noise about anti-corruption he has not done enough to investigate these allegations and to recover the money belonging to the Nigerian people. He should charge both Goodluck Jonathan and Dan Etete in this corruption case. He also should investigate how much Goodluck Jonathan has swindled from the government funds during his term of office as president.

The World Bank’s 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals, shows that 35 million more Nigerians were living in extreme poverty in 2013 than in 1990. Despite its vast oil riches and impressive economic growth, Nigeria has failed to lift its people out of poverty over the past three decades. Muhammadu Buhari should take this seriously and act swiftly to recover funds belonging Nigeria hidden in offshore funds and to improve the quality of life in the rural areas which are at poverty level.