BY kunle olasanmi, Abuja
Former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has stated that his role in the settlement of the dispute between the Federal Government and Malabu oil following the revocation of the OPL 245 oil block was that of a facilitator to arrive at an amicable settlement between the various contending parties.
Adoke in a suit filed at the Federal High Court Abuja challenging his prosecution by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, said his action in effecting the settlement of the dispute was motivated by the need to avoid a colossal cost to the Federal Government as awarded by the courts.
He stated that the Terms of Settlement upon which the Consent Judgment was predicated was executed as far back as 30th November 2006 to amicably settle Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/ 420/2003 and Appeal No: CA/A/99/M/06 brought by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited as Plaintiff/Appellants against the President and Commander in Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria; the Federal Government of Nigeria; the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; the Department of Petroleum Resources and Attorney General of the Federation as Defendants /Respondents.
According to an affidavit in support of the originations summons deposed to by Oladapo Agboola of the Law Firm of Ade Okeaya-Ineh & Co, Adoke’s solicitors, “the role played by the Plaintiff as Minister of the Government of the federation, acting on the directives and approvals of the President was that of a facilitator of an amicable settlement between two disputing parties over a long standing dispute with obvious economic implications for the country.”
The plaintiff averred further that the decision to implement the terms of settlement was “largely informed by the magnitude of claims against the FGN arising from the allocation of OPL 245 to Malabu; the revocation of the Block in a less than transparent manner and the subsequent re-award of the same block to Shell/NNPC under a Production Sharing Arrangement; the substantial de-risking of Block 245 by Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) with the knowledge and approval of the FGN, and the need to prevent the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Arbitration initiated by SNUD from progressing to conclusion in view of its obvious negative consequences for the country.”
It added that the entire involvement and role played by Adoke in the settlement process and implementation was in furtherance of the directives and approvals of ex-President Jonathan in the exercise of his executive powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It stated that at all times material, Adoke carried out the Presidential directives “diligently, faithfully, impartially and in good faith and without any personal gain to himself nor to any other person except as was agreed to by the known parties to the dispute.
“That the plaintiff (Adoke) verily believes that he did not exceed the directives/approval given to him by the President and did nothing wrong to warrant his prosecution on account of the implementation of the Settlement Agreement.”
The ex-minister through the suit has urged the Court to determine two issues – namely, 1: “Whether by the combined interpretation of Section 5(1), 147(1), and 148(1) and 150(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the executive powers of the President are legally exercisable by him directly or through Ministers of the Government of the Federation.
And 2: “Whether the Plaintiff as a Minister in the Government of the Federation could be held personally liable for acts done in furtherance of the lawful directives/approvals of the President in the exercise of the President’s executive powers vested in him by section 5(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”
Adoke told the court that although, Malabu was issued a licence for Block 245 on 9th April 2001, the Federal Government subsequently revoked the licence on 2nd July 2001.
He said that following the revocation, Exxon-Mobil and Shell were then invited in April 2002 to bid for the same OPL 245 as contractors on a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), despite the existence of subsisting contractual agreements between Malabu and SNUD with respect to OPL 245.
He said, “Dissatisfied with the revocation, Malabu contended among other things that the circumstances leading to the revocation of its licence on Block 245 was less than transparent and smacked of inducement and Connivance from SNUD, which at the material time was its technical partner.” It was also contended by Malabu that the subsequent re-award of OPL 245 to SNUD by the FGN was done under questionable circumstances.