In its latest legal moves, the Nigerian government has raised the stakes in the legal battles over the highly prospective OPL 245 oil block. The Africa Report delves into the background of what could be one of the most important corporate fraud cases in Africa’s history.
OPL 245’s webs of influence
How three Nigerian heads of state and an oil minister fed the corrupt networks behind the billion-dollar OPL 245 court case.
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.
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.
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.
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.