The federal government has said that Nigeria could rake in as much as $10 billion in investments if the current negotiations to finally settle the 28-year disputed case on the controversy-ridden Malabu deal involving Oil Prospecting Licence (245) in the Niger Delta succeeds.
It also reacted to an online report, alleging underhand dealings in the current talks between the government and litigants in the prolific oil bloc, describing the report as a “compendium of lies”.
The report had alleged that President Bola Tinubu agreed to the deal largely to “expand his own riches” when he was supposed to maximise its benefits for the Nigerian people.
It said there was an arrangement brokered by Tinubu’s “controversial ally” Gilbert Chagoury, stressing that the president also withdrew all existing cases against Shell and Eni from international tribunals and allowed both firms to take back control of OPL 245 without fresh dues to Nigeria.According to the report, a “new resolution agreement” was entered with representatives of the two oil firms, Eni and Shell, after which Nigerian representatives left for Paris to meet the president with the details.
But addressing journalists in his office in Abuja, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said the report was misleading, insisting that at the moment no deal had been reached in the negotiations.
The minister stated that the federal government had weighed all its options, given that for 28 years there had been no headway in all the litigations in almost all parts of the world, which the Nigerian government lost.
Lokpobiri maintained that if Nigeria is able to resolve issues around OPL 245, it could attract investment to the tune of $10 billion and markedly change the story of the oil industry in Nigeria. “The block has been tied down for 28 years,” he lamented .He stated that because the courts could not detect criminal liability in the cases, it was difficult to get a judgement that favoured Nigeria.
Aside former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who tried to resolve the matter, Lokpobiri stated that the late ex-President Umar Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan also tried to resolve the cases, explaining that despite spending huge sums to prosecute the case in several courts, Nigeria lost all of them.
“And so, there have been multiple litigations around in different parts of the world, in Europe, Canada, in Nigeria. It’s also important for us to state that in all the cases that have come before different courts, we have lost all,” he stated.
The minister argued that Nigeria needed to get its oil out of the soil as soon as possible, explaining that any investment that the oil sector cannot attract between 2024 and 2025 will be hard to attract thereafter.
“Now, this president because of his vast experience, and because of the way we have found ourselves in the comity of nations, has directed that we should resolve the problems around OPL 245,” he stated.
According to him, meetings had been held in Netherlands, UK, Milan and several other parts of the world to resolve the pending matter.
“There is no agreement signed as of today and when I look at that report, it says an agreement was signed and after the agreement was signed, some people went to Paris to meet with the president. No agreement has been drawn up and signed by parties,” he added