The alleged approval of the transfer of $1.092 billion from Nigeria’s JP Morgan account in London to Nigerian accounts controlled by Malabu under the Jonathan administration has placed a question mark on the integrity of Jonathan’s personality.
A British Judge on Tuesday disapproved the release of $85 million (N17 billion) to Malabu, a company controlled by Nigeria’s former petroleum minister, Dan Etete. His refusal was based on his mistrust in the integrity of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan acting in Nigeria’s best interest when it approved the transfer of the money to Malabu.
Justice Edis of the Southwark Crown Court declared that he needed to conduct more investigations to be sure that President Goodluck Jonathan was thinking in the best interest of Nigeria when he approved the initial transfer of the money to Malabu.
“I cannot simply assume that the FGN which was in power in 2011 and subsequently until 2015 rigorously defended the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects,” the judge ruled.
According to Premium Times, the money was paid by global oil giants, Shell and ENi, for Africa’s richest oil bloc, OPL 245. Report also revealed that Mohammed Adoke who was then the Attorney General of the Federation alongside the former Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, signed the documents approving the transfer to Malabu.
At a two-day hearing that started on November 23, Mr. Etete was said to have approached the British court through his lawyer, requesting that the $85 million meant for the last part of the OPL 245 largess not yet distributed, should be returned to him. But on the other hand, the Italian prosecutors had insisted that the money remain seized until investigation on the deal is properly concluded.
Insisting on the release of the money, Malabu’s lawyers told the court that freezing the money was an assault on Nigeria and questioned how the court could imagine that Mr. Adoke and Mr. Ngama would be a party to a corrupt deal. But in his ruling, Justice Edis said while he could not say for certain if the deal was fraudulent pending conclusions of investigations, it would be inappropriate to release the money to Malabu.
“I am not making any findings of fact about misconduct by anyone. I am simply assessing the evidence before me to determine whether a restraint order should be discharged which was granted by way of MLA (Mutual Legal Assistance between the UK and Italy) to support an investigation by the Italian authorities,” he said.
Making reference to evidence provided him by the Italian authorities that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) under Goodluck Jonthan acted as a middleman in the fraudulent deal, the judge went further to say:
“The suggestion from the wiretaps is that “Fortunato” was implicated and I am told that this was a reference in code (not subtle) to the former President of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan,”
“Aliyu (Abubakar) is said to be associated with him and Aliyu received, in a way which was not transparent, $523m of the money paid for the OPL 245 licence in August 2011.”
How ever the said Mr Aliyu who was a close ally of Mr. Jonathan, was not long interrogated by EFCC operatives for the first time despite being a central character in the deal whose investigation was virtually stalled during the Jonathan presidency.
Meanwhile, the fraudulent deal which has been covered in layers of corruption, has been condemned by well-meaning Nigerians and international transparency advocates and is being investigated by authorities in four different countries.
Mr. Dotun Oloko, who is an anti-corruption campaigner in Nigeria reacted on the court’s ruling by saying that“In light of these allegations in a UK court, the role of the senior Nigerian officials involved in this deal, including Goodluck Jonathan, must now be fully investigated.”
It is believed that with the ruling, Nigeria will have the opportunity to not only claim the money but also to claim another $110.5 million of the funds held in a Swiss bank while investigations continue.