By Cross Udo
The Federal Government yesterday said it was studying a United Kingdom Commercial Court judgement that ruled that there is no evidence of fraud in the OPL 245 transaction between Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase Bank.
The Commercial Court of England and Wales had on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 ruled on the matter in Case No CL-2017-000730 as contained in its 137-paged judgement.
An Italian court in 2021 had also dismissed all corruption charges in the OPL 245 deal, discharging and acquitting all the defendants.
The Nigerian government in the judgement lost $1.7 billion in claims against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed while responding to questions from State House Correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, said government’s lawyers will study the ruling and decide whether to appeal or not.
The Nigerian government had contended that the contract awarded to former Petroleum Minister Dan Etete, to explore the deep waters off the Gulf of Guinea was corrupt alleging that the bank “ought to have known” that there was corruption and fraud in the transaction which saw Malabu sell its 100 per cent in OPL 245 to Shell and ENI for $1.1 billion.
Lawyers to the Nigerian government alleged that the bank ignored “glaring” red flags, including “overwhelming” evidence of fraud and stark warnings from its own compliance staff when it authorized the payments.
Reacting to a question on the judgment, Mohammed said: “The last question is about Malabu Oil. I also read the judgment. Malabu oil and I think, strangely enough, the judge said we were not able to establish that we lost $1.7 billion.
“But I also read further that the lawyer said that they are studying the judgement and they will take the appropriate step on whether to appeal or not.”
Meanwhile, the Council has also approved N66.9 billion for the rehabilitation of Kashimbila-Takum-Chahchangi road in Taraba State, North-East Nigeria.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said: “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented one memorandum and it was for the rehabilitation of the 91.94 kilometre Kashimbila-Takum-Chahchangi road in Taraba State and council approved the proposal by the ministry in the sum of N66.983 billion.”
Fashola said the project will help boost the transportation network in Taraba State and the entire North-East.
The Council also approved N23.9 billion for the procurement of equipment for airports across the country.
Briefing on behalf of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the equipment to be procured include a radio communication system for some control towers and instrument landing systems for some airports.
He said: “The Minister of Aviation presented two memos, one was for the award of contract for the upgrade of twelve airports tower voice communication and control system radio for twelve airports located in Akure, Benin, Calabar, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Minna, Owerri, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna and Enugu.
“The contract was for the sum of N9.988 billion with a completion period of 13 months. As you are aware, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency NAMA has a statutory mandate to enhance safety and security of the Nigerian airspace and it is in line with this that it sought to upgrade 12 air control towers voice and communication control system.”
Mohammed said the communication tower had to be upgraded because the ones currently in use have aged and also to enhance better performance in the twelve airports in conferment with technological advancements and aviation industry’s best practices.
He added that N14 billion for the procurement of instrument landing systems for Lagos Abuja, Katsina and Port Harcourt airports.
“The Ministry of Aviation also sought and obtained approval for the award of contract fir the procurement and installation of air field lighting category three instrument landing systems in Lagos, Abuja, Katsina and Port Harcourt airports.
“This has to do with safety. The memo was approved and contract was awarded in the sum of 14,036,000,000. This is in a bid to carryout statutory mandate of developing and managing all relevant aviation services for safe secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods.”
He also said the move was necessitated by the recent increase in the fleet of passengers across the four airports.