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 However, the oil licence was revoked by the new President Olusegun Obasanjo administration and reallocated to Shell.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.
FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it received the highest consumer related complaints from the electricity sector in 2020.
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Babatunde Irukera (pictured), chief executive officer of FCCPC, said the banking and telecommunication sectors ranked second and third respectively on the complaints chart.
He added that the aviation sector was ranked fourth.
“Our complaints resolution team is still a very small team of people and they are dealing with thousands of complaints,” Irukera said.
“We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints but the real game changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.
“The person who has the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors and that is one person. If you multiply it by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.
“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training, leveraging technology, the more we leverage technology, the more efficiently we can do our work.”
The commission was established by the 2018 Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, facilitate access by all citizens to safe products, and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said on Wednesday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the ministry of information and culture for the renovation of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.
He spoke at the end the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The federal government, on July 12, 2020, handed over the national theatre to CBN and the bankers’ committee to signify the kick-start of the renovation process.
“This is a landmark approval because, it has paved the way for investment in the creative industry as part of the resolve of this government to create at least one million jobs in the next three years in the creative industry,” Mohammed said.
“The CBN and banker’s committee are willing to invest N21.894 billion to renovate, refurbish and commercialization (run it profitably) of the national theatre complex. The MoU has a life span of 21 years after which it will revert back to government.”
The minister assured that no job will be lost after the national theatre is renovated, adding that the “brand new national theatre, an event centre” will instead create more jobs.
Asides from this, FEC approved about N9.43 billion to complete the digital switch over (DSO) in broadcasting; N8.98 billion for a new national ICT park in the federal capital territory (FCT) to coordinate public and private ICT hubs in Nigeria.
The council also approved a new national policy on aging which would take care of the needs of the aged people across Nigeria; approved the ministry of water resources memo to construct Damaturu water supply project in Yobe state worth N8.43 billion.
Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned that debt service is Nigeria’s greatest risk, even as he urged the federal government to take steps to increase tax revenue in the face of dwindling oil income.
The Director of Communications and Liaison of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, stated that he spoke virtually at the recently held First Annual National Tax Dialogue .
Dr. Adesina was quoted as saying that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy shrank “by 3% in 2020 on account of falling oil prices and the effects of the lockdowns on economic activities,” adding, “with shrinkage in oil revenues, debt service payments pose the greatest risk to Nigeria.”
He stressed further that for Nigeria to overcome the pandemic, “taxes must form a significant percentage of government revenue. Digitalization of tax collection and tax administration is critical to ensure greater transparency of the tax system, widening of the tax base, while mitigating compliance risks and encouraging voluntary tax compliance.”
Tax experts and stakeholders at the event called for the automation of tax collection by the FIRS through data and intelligence in order to ease tax collection, as well as, improve revenue.
Executive Secretary, African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Mr. Logan Wort, harped on the place of technology in generating revenue for the country in a post-Covid economy.
Mr. Wort, who joined the dialogue virtually from South Africa, stated, “Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) is expected to contribute at least 75% to 90% on average per country” in the post-Covid era, adding that Nigeria and other African countries should note, “improved tax revenue will have to take prime position” in the scheme of things.
He urged Nigeria to pay serious attention to e-commerce and the digital economy sector where big, trans-national digital conglomerates like Google, Netflix and Uber operate and make huge, tax-free profits as a possible way of increasing tax revenue generation.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana in e-commerce taxation, projected to fetch Ghana $450 million in annual tax revenue.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was chairman of the Dialogue, was quoted as lauding the FIRS “for its performance in the 2020 fiscal year, despite operating in the most challenging period. The Service not only collected N4.9 trillion in taxes, achieving 98% of its target; only 30.6% of this was attributed to Petroleum Profits Tax, from what used to be over 50%”.
He urged participants to, “interrogate how Nigeria can further deepen the use of technology to improve tax compliance nationally and across sub-nationals.”