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Malabu Scandal: Jonathan replies FG, speaks on role

A former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has repeated his claim that he did nothing wrong when his government brokered the controversial Malabu oil deal.

A statement by Ikechukwu Eze, media adviser to the former president, described the allegation Mr Jonathan acted corruptly and may have received bribes as “recycled falsehood that is blatantly dishonest, cheap, and predictable.”

Mr Jonathan was reacting to a fresh claim by the Nigerian government filed in a London court last month.

In the court filing, obtained by this newspaper’s London partners, Finance Uncovered, the Nigerian government accused Mr Jonathan and other officials who worked in his government of bribery and corruption.

In the same filing, the government is also seeking about $3.5 billion in damages from oil giants Eni and Shell over the controversial Malabu oil deal.

The court documents, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, show that the government also alleged that the Malabu deal was “corrupt” and not done in the interest of Nigeria.

The government accused Eni, Shell, Malabu and other defendants of, among others, “fraud or/and bribery, dishonest assistance and unlawful means of conspiracy.”

Long-running Scandal

The controversial Malabu scandal involves the transfer of about $1.1 billion by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete.

Prosecutors alleged that half the money ($520 million) went to the accounts of companies jointly controlled by Abubakar Aliyu, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil, and Mr Etete. Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect Mr Aliyu fronted for top officials of Mr Jonathan’s administration, as well of officials of Shell and ENI.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Mr Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers, and the money was payment for the block, considered one of Nigeria’s most lucrative. Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Mr Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false.

Shell later admitted it did know the money would go to Mr Etete. Shell, Eni, Mr Etete, Mr Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.

Mr Jonathan is not under any probe on the matter.

Fierce rebuttal

In the statement released by Mr Jonathan’s aide Saturday evening, Mr Eze said although there is nothing new in the “fabricated bribery claim” which he had debunked in the past, the former president will continue to restate the facts.

“Former President Goodluck Jonathan did not ask for or collect any bribes, neither has he been charged for asking or collecting bribes, neither will he ever be charged with asking for or collecting bribes, because such never happened,” the statement read in part.

He argued that this particular dispute predated the Jonathan administration and survives it, adding that Mr Jonathan is a 61-year-old who, throughout his life, has never opened an account, nor owned property outside Nigeria.

“The fact remains that as recent national events continue to vindicate former President Jonathan, and as the world continues to celebrate him, those who are insecure will feed such propaganda to their media agents to feed their inferiority complex,” the statement said.

“In fact, we expected something like this ever since it was announced that former President Jonathan would lead the Election Observation Mission of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa to South Africa’s national and provincial elections.

“We are well aware that this claim was intentioned to eclipse the goodwill and positive reports of former President Jonathan’s diligent engagement in South Africa’s national and provisional elections.

“The fact that most major media houses in the country refused to republish this falsehood bears out our conviction that Nigerians can no longer be deceived by hollow and diversionary claims of corruption, in the face of worsening state of affairs in the country.”

Mr Eze said that beyond the “wave of conjecture”, former President Jonathan was not linked, indicted or charged for collecting any monies as kickbacks or bribes from ENI by the Italian authorities or any other law enforcement body the world over.

Rather than reacting specifically to why Mr Jonathan authorised his ministers to sign the deal and transfer such funds to an ex-convict, Mr Etete, Mr Eze said: “It bears repeating that the documents relating to the transactions and decisions of the Federal Government on the Malabu issue, during the Jonathan administration, are in the relevant government offices, where they are accessible.

“We would like to point out that all the actions taken by the Jonathan administration in relation to activities in the oil industry were legally conducted by relevant Nigerian government officials and were carried out in the best interest of the country.

“Finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we will like to point out that whether in office or out of office, former President Jonathan still does not own any bank account, business or real estate outside Nigeria. It, therefore, beggars belief that so much useful energy is channelled by dark forces into this futile bid to bring down a man whose political ambition was not and still is not worth the blood of any citizen.”

In its new claims, the Nigerian government said that the controversial block was undervalued even at the time it was sold in 2011 under the Jonathan presidency.

Last month, a consultant who stood as witness before an Italian court in Milan faulted the valuation of the controversial block by the oil giants, Eni and Shell.

The new claim, dated April 8 and signed by Jonathan Cary, was filed against 14 defendants, including Shell, Eni, Malabu and their respective subsidiaries.