Oredola Adeola and agency report
Nigeria has withdrawn a $1.1 billion civil claim against Eni, the Italian energy group, related to corruption allegations in the Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245 field, marking the end of a long legal battle in Italian courts and potentially impacting the future development of the oil block, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.
This is a follow-up to the weekend meeting between Mr. Fabrizio Bolondi, Managing Director, Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC) subsidiary company of Italian energy group Eni and Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) on the plan to re-open discussions on Nigeria’s deepwater oil bloc OPL 245(Zabazaba).
EnergyDay gathered that the Nigerian Government’s decision to drop a lawsuit in the favour of national interest, will pave the way for two oil majors to develop a field containing 560 million barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves.
According to the Bloomberg, Ministry of Justice will waive the claims before Italy’s highest court “unconditionally” and “with immediate effect” no later than Friday, November 17, 2023, the report said citing a letter and seen by the newswire.
Responding to a request for comment, an Eni spokesperson confirmed that the group had received the letter regarding OPL 245, and said it was pleased about the Nigerian government’s decision.
The oil company said that it was ready to consider – together with the government of Nigeria – the necessary steps for achieving the conversion of the license from prospecting into mining, to ensure development perspectives for the field.
In 2013, the British police probed the allegation that the $1.3-billion oil license deal had contained elements of corruption and money laundering, concerning payments allegedly made to a company linked with Dan Etete, Minister of Petroleum during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, who was convicted of money laundering in France in 2007.
A UK judge in June 2022, dismissed the case, claiming that there was no evidence of fraud in the transaction between Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase Bank.
On March 17, 2021, a court in a ruling delivered in Milan also found Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and members of his management team, NAOC, and Shell not guilty over a corruption case revolving around the acquisition of the deep-water oilfield.
On July 19, 2022, Celestina Gravina, Italy’s Assistant Attorney General brought the legal proceedings on the case to a close by waiting for the appeal against the decision of the court.
Since then, Former President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration and the National Assembly made several efforts to dismiss the rulings of the two courts.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) maintained that Eni and Shell purchased the oil block from Malabu in the sum of $1.1bn and that the deal ” revealed crimes that border on conspiracy forgery of bank documents, bribery, and money laundering to the tune of over $1.2bn against Malabu, Eni, Shell and all the other persons involved in the deal.
EnergyDay’s check showed that the OPL 245 is a deep-water offshore oil play approximately 150 km off the Niger Delta.
In 2005 and 2006, two commercial sized major oil and gas discoveries were made here (Etan and Zabazaba), as Wood Mackenzie estimated the block contains some 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent, discovered and prospective resources.
WoodMac revealed that the subsea oil wells would be tied to an FPSO vessel, while the gas would be transported via a new pipeline, either to an offshore system or to Bonny Island for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG).