OPL 245: Nigeria Loses Again As Italian Court Rejects $1.1bn Compensation Claim

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Nigeria has now lost its lawsuit in the prolonged OPL 245 dispute five times.

The appeals court in Milan, Italy, rejected the nation’s demand for $1.1 billion in restitution from Shell and Eni, the two energy monopolies who acquired the oil block from Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd. in 2011.

The Nigerian government had alleged that there was corruption in the deal, leading to a number of criminal trials in Nigeria and Italy.

The Milan appeals court has now rejected Nigeria’s civil claims and promised to make its reasons public within 90 days.

“We are pleased that these civil proceedings have been dismissed,” Shell said in an emailed comment to the Reuters news agency.

“This follows the Milan criminal tribunal’s finding that there was no case to answer for Shell or its former employees when they were fully acquitted in 2021, a decision that was upheld in July 2022, when criminal proceedings ended.”

A String of Losses

In the fact case — in which the government of Nigeria joined as an injured party — the Court of Milan had ruled in March 2021 after three years of criminal trial that the prosecutors did not establish any proof of corruption, discharging and acquitting Shell, Eni and all the defendants.

The prosecutors subsequently filed an appeal but Celestina Gravina, the Italian attorney general, said the case “has no basis… in fact it should have finished earlier” and it was struck out in July 2022.

In another case, the High Court of England and Wales ruled in July 2022 that Nigeria did not prove its allegations against Mohammed Bello Adoke, the former attorney-general of the federation, who was accused of corruption in the transaction.

Nigeria had sued JP Morgan Bank to court for $1.7 billion for allegedly failing in its “duty of care” when it transferred the payments by Shell and ENI to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd between 2011 and 2013.

The country’s attempt to appeal the judgment was turned down by the judge who said there was no prospect of it succeeding.

Friday’s ruling is yet another loss for the federal government which has been trying to prove that the OPL 245 deal was fraught with corruption.

Before the Court of Milan judgment of March 2021, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Department of Justice had both investigated the transaction and decided against filing charges because of lack of evidence of corruption.

Adoke has consistently maintained that he did no wrong and did not collect any bribe, but the government is currently prosecuting him in two different courts in Nigeria.

On Tuesday, Aliyu Abubakar, the property developer who was also on trial in Italy over the OPL 245 affair, told a federal high court sitting in Abuja that he was forced by EFCC to implicate former President Goodluck Jonathan and Adoke in money laundering in the same transaction.

He said that in December 2019, a statement was prepared for him to sign, failing which he was to be detained by the EFCC under the instructions of Ibrahim Magu, then chairman of the commission.

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