OPL 245’s webs of influence

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: How Dan Etete’s billion-dollar deal ended up in court

By Honoré Banda in Abuja and Patrick Smith in Yenagoa

Posted on Monday, 20 May 2019 13:41
Dan Etete, oil minister under Sani Abacha, is at the centre of the OPL 245 scandal. STR NEW/REUTERS

How three Nigerian heads of state and an oil minister fed the corrupt networks behind the billion-dollar OPL 245 court case.

Sani Abacha

Military leader, Nigeria (1993-1998)

After seizing power in 1993, General Abacha presided over the theft of $4bn of state assets and revenue, of which less than a quarter have been returned. Running a highly centralised and oppressive regime which executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists in the Niger Delta, Abacha’s mismanagement and corruption chronically weakened Nigeria’s economy.

Dan Etete

Oil minister, Nigeria (1995-1998)

At the centre of the fight over billions of dollars and an estimated 9bn barrels of oil, Etete set up Malabu Oil & Gas with the son of military leader General Sani Abacha, then awarding the OPL 245 oil block to the company. With the Nigerian government’s help, he later sold it on to Eni and Shell, which are embroiled in the Milan and other court cases.

Olusegun Obasanjo

President, Nigeria (1999-2007)

Inheriting a corrupt and dysfunctional system from his military predecessors, Obasanjo struggled to push through economic reforms. Although he set up the EFCC, the anti-graft agency which launched the investigation into corruption around the OPL 245 oil block, Obasanjo’s government failed to protect the state’s interest in the fight over the block’s ownership.

Goodluck Jonathan

President, Nigeria (2010-2015)

Within a year of coming to power, Jonathan presided over a deal under which Eni and Shell committed to pay – via the Nigerian government – $1.1bn to Dan Etete for the OPL 245 oil block, whose ownership was disputed. Italian court documents accuse Jonathan, a friend of Etete’s, of benefiting from the deal. Jonathan denies all wrongdoing.

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