Forty-eight days after he was invited to testify in the investigations into the controversial sale of Oil Prospecting Licence 245, former President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to reply the House of Representatives.
Better known as $1.1bn Malabu Oil deal, an ad hoc committee of the House has been investigating the alleged “diversion” of the money, which was the Federal Government’s share of the deal.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kwara State, Mr. Razak Atunwa.
The panel had invited Jonathan on July 5 after it said evidence in the line of the investigations indicated that the former President had issues to clarify.
But, as of Wednesday (yesterday), checks at the committee showed that Jonathan had not responded to any enquiries by the committee.
Findings revealed that though the committee had written him to either appear or respond to questions by submitting documents, Jonathan had yet to reply the panel.
Atunwa confirmed the development when sources sought his comments on Wednesday.
He said, “Yes, we invited the former President already. The committee wrote him a letter, but he has not responded. He has not sent in any replies. We are still waiting for him.”
When asked what the committee would do next since Jonathan had not replied after 48 days of the committee forwarding a letter to him, Atunwa replied that a decision would be taken after September 19.
The National Assembly is on annual vacation till September 19.
“When we resume, we will review the situation and decide on the next line of action,” he added.
In making the panel’s decision to invite Jonathan in July, Atunwa had stated that certain information in the public domain had made the need to hear from the former President necessary, before the probe could be considered conclusive.
He explained that hearing from Jonathan was also an indication that “thoroughness, natural justice and fair play” was applied to the investigation.
Atunwa gave the grounds for inviting the former President, “Mr. Jonathan was the President at the material time that (his cabinet) ministers brokered the deal that led to the allegation of $1bn diversion of funds.
“Mr. Jonathan’s name features in the proceedings initiated by the Public Prosecutor of Milan in Italy. A United Kingdom court judgment in relation to an application to return part of the money being restrained, castigated the Jonathan administration as not having acted in the best interest of Nigeria in relation to the ‘deal.’
“The Attorney General of the Federation at the material time, Mohammed Bello-Adoke, has recently instituted proceedings in court wherein he pleads that all his actions were as instructed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of the (1999) Constitution, the committee has decided to request that former President Goodluck Jonathan give evidence as to his role in the matter.”
When Atunwa was asked in July whether the invitation meant that Jonathan would come personally before the committee or the committee would meet him at a location chosen by the former President, Atunwa replied that what was most important was to write to him.
“There are parliamentary procedures, so we don’t jump the gun.What we have said here is to ask for his response. When he responds, that is when we go further.
“At this material point, we have invited him and that is where the case will rest for now.” he added.
He spoke 48 days ago at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The House had first investigated the deal in the 7th Assembly (2011-2015), but not satisfied with the outcome of the probe, the current 8th House revisited it.
This second phase of the probe was launched in October 2016 with the committee taking representations from Shell, Agip and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It also received the submissions of the current AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, among others.
However, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources under the Jonathan administration, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Bello-Adoke, reportedly shunned the panel.
According to the House, OPL 245 occupies an area of 1,958 square kilometres and holds up to “9.2 billion” barrels of crude oil.
Recalling how the deal started, the committee said Chief Dan Etete, a former minister under the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, awarded the block to himself in 1998, using Malabu Oil and Gas.
“He awarded it to himself for just $20m, out of which he paid only $2m,” the committee stated.
It added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked the block, but it was later sold to Shell at $210m, a development, which sparked off a series of legal tussles.
The committee recalled that while Malabu was still in court, Bello-Adoke and Alison-Madueke were alleged to have “contrived a series of complex agreements of a questionable nature.
“The summary of the agreement was that Shell and Nigeria Agip Exploration paid $1.1bn to the Federal Government for the oil block.”
However, instead of paying the money into the Federation Account, the committee stated that Bello-Adoke and Alison-Madueke “caused the money to be transferred to Malabu, which then spirited the money to various foreign bank accounts.