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Court Dismisses Nigeria’s $1bn Bribery Suit Against Shell, Eni

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A court in the United Kingdom has dismissed a $1bn bribery suit instituted against oil giants – Royal Dutch Shell and Eni by – the Federal Government of Nigeria, Bloomberg reports.

The judge, Christopher Butcher, delivered the ruling at a virtual hearing on Friday, setting back the long-standing trial on the Malabu oil deal of 2011.

The judge ruled that England had no jurisdiction to try the case as it involves the same essential facts as a separate Italian criminal case.

The ruling is a victory for the oil companies, which have been clouded by accusations in a years-old dispute over exploration rights to a tract in the Gulf of Guinea called Oil Prospecting License 245 that has spread to courtrooms throughout Europe.

The Nigerian government claims that money the companies paid to acquire the oil exploration licence in 2011 was diverted to bribes and kickbacks.

It says Shell and Eni are partly responsible for the behaviour of Nigerian officials who used a $1.1bn payment to acquire the oil block for personal enrichment. Shell and Eni have denied any wrongdoing.

“We maintain that the 2011 settlement of long-standing legal disputes related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries,” Shell said in a statement.

The Nigerian government said in its own statement that the Italian criminal case has a completely separate legal basis from the UK civil case and it would seek permission to appeal.

Eni declined to comment.

The ruling does not affect ongoing Italian criminal proceedings, where Nigeria has a separate legal claim.

The Malabu scam, described as one of the most fraudulent oil deals in the world, involved the payment of $1.1bn by oil giants, Shell and Eni, to the Federal Government accounts in 2011 for OPL 245, said to hold reserves of about 9.23 billion barrels of oil.

The OPL 245 was alleged to have been bought by the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete under suspicious circumstances in 1998.

Etete was alleged to have bought it for a fraction of its actual value. However, the oil licence was revoked by the new President Olusegun Obasanjo administration and reallocated to Shell.

During the administration of Jonathan in 2011, the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), brokered a deal for the sale of the same oil bloc, acting as a middleman between Shell and Eni on the one hand, and Etete’s company, Malabu, on the other hand.

Shell and Eni were said to have paid about $1.3bn for the OPL 245, which was paid into two escrow accounts owned by the Federal Government. However, Adoke was alleged to have transferred over $800m to Etete who, in turn, transferred part of the money to government officials.

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Labour Warns FG Against Electricity Tariff Hike 

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The Nigeria Labour Congress faulted plans to allegedly sell the Transmission Company of Nigeria, saying it will lead to an increase in electricity tariff.

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this in a statement titled, “This Kite will not Fly’’ on Friday.

Wabba explained that instead of allegedly planning to sell the transmission company, FG should focus on improving the electricity supply.

He described the attempt to hand over the TCN to a few ‘privileged’ Nigerians as self-serving, obtuse, odious, morally reprehensible and criminal.

The NLC president said, “The TCN is a strategic economic asset of immense national security implications. This is because the TCN traverses all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“It will be wrong that our country will be deliberately exposed to an avoidable vulnerability and thus, provide an opportunity to others to restrain the Nigerian state.

“We apprehend that the planned sale of the TCN is only an attempt to further confound the people and concurrently raise electricity tariff. Unfortunately, this time around, Nigerians have had enough.

“The government cannot promise improved power supply to consumers by the planned sale of TCN. The under-the-table scheming as transparent privatisation cannot pass muster.

“It is an unsavoury narrative for our country, that even the privatised assets, which have survived the rapacity of the new owners, have been turned into unrealisable collaterals for unpayable loans.

“This constitutes a bone stuck in the throat of financial institutions and sundry creditors.”

Wabba explained that the plan would “fundamentally weaken the security of the nation and above all, deprive the people of their age-old investments in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”.

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FG To Consider Death Penalty For Rail Vandals – Amaechi

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The federal government says it may consider a death penalty for vandals of critical railway equipment in the country.

Rotimi Ameachi, minister of transportation, stated this on Monday, during a town hall meeting on “protecting public infrastructure” in Abuja.

On May 8, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the arrest of two persons suspected of vandalising rail tracks along the Kaduna-Zaria rail line.

Few days later, suspected vandals were arrested for destroying and carting away tracks and rail rods laid on a section of the Warri-Itakpe rail line.

On May 16, the Kaduna state police command said it arrested five suspected rail-trail vandals at Dalle Village of Jema’a LGA and recovered two trucks loaded with locomotive railway sleepers.

After the Warri-Itakpe incident, the senate asked the federal government and security agencies to ensure that those caught vandalising rail lines across Nigeria are given maximum punishment without a fine.

”I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost,” Ameachi said at the town hall meeting.

“Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed, what happens? It will derail.

“If it derails, can you quantify how many passengers that would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money?

”Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people, if an accident happens people will die, so we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but consequences should be death.”

The minister also said track vandalism is carried out in collaboration with foreign partners.

”In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those tracks from them, went to court and found them guilty and fined them N200, 000. So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough,” he added.

“Lagos and the Western District recorded one, North Western 31, Northern District 10, North Eastern 43, Eastern 36 and North Central 50 incidents of vandalism. Abuja-Kaduna has 13, Warri-Itakpe 2 and Lagos -Ibadan nill.”

Amaechi, who frowned at traders selling items on railway tracks, especially in Port Harcourt and Lagos, advised individuals engaging in the practice to desist or face the penalties.

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