In a not-so-surprising move, the Nigerian Federal Government, yesterday, instituted legal action against the Royal Dutch Shell and ENI in a London commercial court.

This move is in connection with a 2011 Nigerian oil contract which went awry and is now the focus of an even bigger lawsuit in Italy, involving former employees of both oil companies.

Bua group

The controversial oil deal — the OPL 245 oilfield — was said to have been signed off to Shell and ENI after both companies allegedly paid bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion.

The man who is alleged to have received the bribe is former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, who used his company to receive kickbacks from the deal.

“It is alleged that purchase monies purportedly paid to the Federal Republic of Nigeria were in fact immediately paid through to a company controlled by Dan Etete, formerly the Nigerian minister of petroleum, and used for, amongst other things, bribes and kickbacks.

“Accordingly, it is alleged that Shell and Eni engaged in bribery and unlawful conspiracy to harm the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that they dishonestly assisted corrupt Nigerian government officials.” – Nigeria Government

It is on the basis of this alleged bribery that the Nigerian Government is suing both Shell and ENI.

Already, the Nigerian Government has already instituted a separate legal action against America’s JPMorgan for allegedly transferring the sum of $800 million to Mr Dan Etete; money that originally belonged to Nigeria.

Meanwhile, both Shell and ENI have continued to maintain innocence 

According to Reuters, ENI said in an emailed statement that the 2011 transaction was a legal one, even as it refuted “any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with this transaction.”

“Eni signed a commercial agreement in 2011 for a new licence for OPL 245 with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and the consideration for the license was paid directly to the Nigerian government.”

Similarly, the Royal Dutch Shell stated that in 2011, it legally settled a “long-standing legal dispute related to OPL 245” with the help of the Federal Government of Nigeria. According to the company, it never committed any wrongdoing.

It should be noted that the 2011 oil deal has since been embroiled in serious controversies, so much so that neither ENI nor Shell have been able to operate the OPL 245 oilfield.

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