Over six months after he was invited to testify in the investigations into the controversial sale of Oil Prospecting Licence 245, former President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to reply the House of Representatives, findings by The PUNCH indicated on Sunday.
Otherwise known as $1.1bn Malabu Oil deal, an ad hoc committee of the House has been investigating the alleged “diversion” of the money, which was the Federal Government’s share of the deal.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kwara State, Mr. Razak Atunwa.
The panel had invited the former President on July 5, 2017, after it said evidence in the line of the investigations showed that Jonathan had issues to clarify.
On August 23, 2017, about 48 days after the invitation, The PUNCH had made its first inquiries at the secretariat of the committee, but found out that Jonathan had yet to reply the panel.
Investigations revealed that he neither indicated that he would appear in person nor wrote to the committee that he would send someone to represent him or forward documents to the panel.
On Sunday, (yesterday), The PUNCH contacted the committee again and learnt that the former President had not responded to inquiries by the panel.
When asked to speak on the issue, Atunwa, a lawyer, told The PUNCH that Jonathan had yet to communicate with the committee.
In the circumstances, he disclosed that the lawmakers would write a report on their findings and lay it before the House.
“We are still on it (investigation and Jonathan’s response). We have not received any communication from him.
“But we are writing our report, which will soon be ready for the whole House to consider,” said the former Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker.
When The PUNCH asked Atunwa to put a date to “the soon,” he simply replied that “immediately” the committee concluded the report, it would be laid before the House.
The PUNCH also sought to know whether the panel would go ahead with the report without hearing from Jonathan.
Atunwa stated, “What we will do is that we will make the necessary comments on our findings.
“The leadership of the House and all members of the committee will look at the issues. There are processes which the committee has already followed.
“We will go ahead and lay our report, no doubt.”
The House will reconvene on January 16 after the Christmas and New Year break.
In making the panel’s decision to invite Jonathan public last July, Atunwa had stated that certain information in the public domain had made the need to hear from the former President necessary before the probe could be considered conclusive.
He explained that hearing from Jonathan was also an indication that “thoroughness, natural justice and fair play” were applied to the investigation.
Giving the background for inviting Jonathan, Atunwa stated, “Mr. Jonathan was the President at the material time that (his cabinet) ministers brokered the deal that led to the allegation of $1bn diversion of funds.
“Mr. Jonathan’s name features in the proceedings initiated by the Public Prosecutor of Milan in Italy.
“A United Kingdom court judgment, in relation to an application to return part of the money being restrained, castigated the Jonathan administration as not having acted in the best interest of Nigeria in relation to the ‘deal’.
“The Attorney General of the Federation, at the material time, Mohammed Bello-Adoke, has recently instituted proceedings in court wherein he pleads that all his actions were as instructed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of the (1999) constitution, the committee has decided to request that former President Goodluck Jonathan gives evidence as to his role in the matter.”
When Atunwa was asked in July whether the invitation meant that Jonathan would come personally before the committee or the committee would meet him at a location chosen by the former President, Atunwa said what was most important was to write him.
“There are parliamentary procedures, so we don’t jump the gun. What we have said here is to ask for his response. When he responds, that is when we go further.
“At this material point, we have invited him and that is where the case will rest for now,” he added.
He spoke six months ago at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The House had first investigated the deal in the 7th Assembly (2011-2015), but not satisfied with the outcome of the probe, the current 8th House revisited it.
This second phase of the probe began in October 2016 with the committee taking representations from Shell, Agip and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It also received the submissions of the current AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, among others.
However, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources under the Jonathan administration, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Adoke reportedly shunned the panel.
According to the House, OPL 245 occupies an area of 1,958 square kilometres and holds up to “9.2 billion” barrels of crude oil.
Recalling how the deal started, the committee said Chief Dan Etete, a former petroleum minister under the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, awarded the block to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas.
“He awarded it to himself for just $20m, out of which he paid only $2m,” the committee stated.
It added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the block’s licence, but it was later sold to Shell at $210m, a development, which sparked off a series of legal tussles.
The committee recalled that while Malabu was still in court, Adoke and Alison-Madueke were alleged to have “contrived a series of complex agreement of a questionable nature.”
It added, “The summary of the agreement was that Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1bn to the Federal Government for the oil block.”
However, instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, the committee stated that Adoke and Alison-Madueke “caused the money to be transferred to Malabu, which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.”
The committee stated further, “In this regard, it is alleged that companies such as AA Oil Limited were engaged to launder the funds.”
The committee viewed the development as unacceptable, arguing that “Nigeria and its citizens may be said to have been short-changed to the tune of $1.1bn.”
The committee noted further, “As we sit here today, $110m is being held by the UK authorities from the fund as proceed of corruption from Nigeria.
“Italian prosecutors have also requested that money from that deal in Swiss accounts should be frozen.
“So, Nigeria folds its arms, while other countries protect its interest? Nigeria is the victim.”
But, Malami, in his submissions to the committee in December 2016, claimed that the Federal Government could not prosecute Alison-Madueke , Adoke and a former Minister of Finance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, because of lack of sufficient evidence to nail the three former ministers.
He had stated, “I can’t with certainty jump into the conclusion of indictment.”
Malami added that though Bello-Adoke had made written submissions, he had “not made himself available.”
The AGF, however, admitted before the committee that the payment of over $1.09bn into an escrow account by the three former government officials was illegal, explaining that the money ought to have been remitted into the Federation Account.