FEDERAL government lawyers have filed a suit in a London high court against Shell and the Italian oil giant Eni in which it accuses former president Dr Goodluck Jonathan and ex-petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke of receiving bribes.
In what could turn out to be a high profile case, the government has approached a London commercial court with claims that the duo conspired to receive bribes and make a secret profit in respect of the controversial OPL 245 offshore oilfield. Although the case is largely against Shell and Eni, the federal government accused Dr Jonathan and Ms Alison-Madueke of denying Nigeria what it was owed from the oil deal.
It said the duo accepted bribes and broke the laws in brokering the $1.3bn oil deal in 2011. The bone of contention is payment made by Shell and Eni to acquire the licence for the oilfield thought to be one of the most lucrative in the country.
One government lawyer said: “Bribes were paid. The receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law.”
Shell and Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield with estimated reserves of 9m barrels but the deal went awry, leading to legal cases in several countries. Nigeria is said to have only received $209m as signature bonus on the deal and the government estimates the value of the oilfield to have been at least $3.5bn.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has also filed a London case against US bank JPMorgan for its role in transferring over $800m to another former oil minister Chief Dan Etete, who has been convicted of money laundering. JPMorgan has denied any wrongdoing, however.