An Italian court in Milan on Wednesday acquitted oil giants Eni and Royal Dutch Shell along with a series of past and present managers including Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi of corruption charges, involving $1.1 billion payment in the oil industry’s biggest corruption scandal.
According to a report from Reuters, the judgement which was read out in court by judge Marco Tremolada is coming over 3 years after the trial first began and after a total of 74 hearings.
While pointing out that the companies and defendants had been acquitted as there was no case to answer, the judge equally said that court judgements in Italy are subject to appeal and only become enforceable once they are final.
The long-running case revolved around the $1.3 billion purchase by Eni and Shell of the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in Nigeria in 2011 from Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.
Prosecutors who had alleged that about $1.1 billion of the funds was shared as bribes among politicians and middlemen, including Etete, called for Eni and Shell to be fined and for a number of past and present top officials from both companies, including Descalzi, to be jailed.
However, the defendants have all denied any wrongdoing in the transaction. They said the purchase price for OPL 245 was paid into a Nigerian government account and subsequent transfers were beyond their control.
Matthew Page, an associate fellow at the Chatham House Africa programme said, “This is a huge blow for natural resource governance and transparency in Nigeria. The OPL 245 deal has been a multi-layered tale of corruption and malfeasance and international complicity that’s been going on for two decades.”
“This judgment will continue to sting, as it is a real and visible defeat for global and Nigerian anti-corruption efforts,” he said.
Nigeria, in its reaction, said it was disappointed with the outcome and would consider its position once it had read the written judgment.
A spokesman for the Nigerian government in London said, “The Federal Republic of Nigeria will continue to hold those responsible for the OPL 245 fraud accountable, not only to ensure the people of Nigeria benefit from this valuable resource but also to make clear its commitment to rooting out corruption in all of its forms.’’
What you should know
It can also be recalled that a United Kingdom (UK) court, on May 22, 2020, dismissed the $1.1 billion lawsuit instituted by the Federal Government against oil giants, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, with respect to a dispute over the OPL 245 oil field.
In dismissing the case which was filed at a commercial court in 2018, the UK judge in charge of the case said that the UK court did not have jurisdiction to try the lawsuit, just as it had the same facts for which Shell and Eni were currently undergoing trial in an Italian court.
The Federal Government had also on September 9, 2020, asked a court in Milan to order Royal Dutch Shell and Eni to pay the sum of $1.092 billion as an immediate advance payment for damages in the Malabu oil scandal, one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever corruption scandals.
FG gives completion date for Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki road project
The government said the reconstruction/rehabilitation of the expressway will be completed within 9 to 10 months.
The Federal Government has given a timeline for the completion of the Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonsoki expressway project.
The government said the reconstruction/rehabilitation of the expressway which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2018, to resolve the Apapa traffic gridlock, will be completed within 9 to 10 months.
This disclosure was made by the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr Olukayode Popoola, during a joint inspection with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
He assured that section one of the project would be completed within 3 weeks and thereafter opened for use.
Popoola said that the rehabilitation works, which had been divided into four sections to ease port congestion and gridlock at the Apapa axis, have section one which spans from Liverpool Round through Creek Road to Beachland near Sunrise and is about 10 km, while section two is 8.4 km and spans from Beachland to Cele Bus Stop.
Briefing the press after the inspection that also had in attendance the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Usman, and the Hitech Construction Company, the subcontractor handling the project on behalf of the Dangote Group, Popoola said that grey areas such as accessibility due to trucks infringing on construction zone and disagreements on the pace of construction had been resolved.
What the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos is saying
Popoola said that the inspection gave the NPA team the opportunity to see for themselves that the contractor had been working progressively.
He said, “And this section that we are is the end of section one which we have completed. We will complete the remaining portion within the next three weeks, especially the asphalt work.
So within that three weeks, the outstanding works will be completed fully and then the section one will be made available to the motorists.
We (FMW) also complained about the trucks that are infiltrating the road while we are working. We have told them (NPA) that we cannot allow trucks to flock onto the section where we are working because they will disturb the contractor.
So the trucks will now be monitored and controlled fully. Both the NPA security, the Nigerian Police, LASTMA and then the contractor’s representative will form a synergy to work out how they will be controlling the trucks that enter into the port road henceforth,’’ Popoola said.
He said the contractor is expected to move to site to start the construction works on section two of the project based on agreement adding that work on sections three and four had reached an advanced stage, with over 70% completion reached cumulatively.
Popoola said that the entire project would be completed and handed over within the next nine to 10 months, including section two which had just been awarded.
The NPA Managing Director said that agreements were reached on timelines for construction works in order not to disrupt port operations with resolutions that the contractor worked during the weekends and on public holidays to ease congestion.
She said it was resolved that a corridor would be opened for trucks movement in addition to palliative works on some roads and another inspection in three weeks on section one.
The contract was awarded to AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd at the cost of N73bn under the Tax Credit Scheme of the Federal Government.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the Federal Government had earlier in the year said that the first phase of the Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki project, which has faced several delays, would be delivered in April 2021.
- The government said that sections one, three and four of the project which was awarded to AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd at the cost of N73bn under the Tax Credit Scheme of the Federal Government, were almost ready and would be completed in April.
- They had also said that section two of the project which spans from Beach Land bus stop area to Cele Bus Stop which was recently awarded would also be completed in December 2021.
USSD N42 billion debt: Telcos insist banks have to pay, seek CBN, NCC intervention
Telcos in Nigeria have called for the intervention of the CBN and NCC as they insist that banks have to pay the N42 billion debt for the USSD services.
Telecommunications companies have insisted that the banks have to pay the N42 billion debt for the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and called for the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the dispute.
This follows the accumulation of the debt to the mobile network operators over a period of about 1 year for services rendered to the deposit money banks.
According to a report from Punch, this was made known by the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, who said that this has become a moral burden on the banks.
What the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria is saying
Adebayo, in his statement, said, “The over N42bn debt remains outstanding and the banks have to pay the telcos. It has become a moral obligation because the banks used the services, debited their customer accounts and now not paying the telcos.
Who do they expect to pay and what were the deductions made from their customers for USSD services, which you and I were debited for?
What is the deduction meant to for? It’s a debt and the banks have to pay the operators. It’s a moral obligation.”
On the association’s next step should the banks refuse to pay, Adebayo stated that the CBN and NCC would have to intervene.
He said, “We are hoping the regulators, CBN and NCC, having intervened by preventing operators from disconnecting the USSD services, will resolve the lingering debt issues.
“They (banks) owe the operators and they will pay. Otherwise, where is the money deducted for USSD services from their customers? You and I know we were charged for USSD transactions; what is the deduction meant for?”
What you should know
- It can be recalled that telecommunication firms under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), had threatened to withdraw their Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services to financial institutions from March 15 due to the N42 billion accumulated debt.
- However, following the intervention of the CBN and NCC, the planned action was shelved with both parties (the telcos and the banks), going into a meeting with the Federal Government representatives.
- As a fallout of the meeting, the CBN and NCC announced the introduction of N6.98 per transaction as new charges for customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services with effect from March 16, 2021.
- Recently, the Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, reportedly stated that Nigerian banks were not indebted to telecommunications firms for using telcos platforms to provide payment services.
- The statement made the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Ikechukwu Nnamani, ask CBN to call the banks to order as regards agreements reached on the settling of the N42bn.
Nairametrics | Company Earnings
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- PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc appoints Ifueko Okauru as Independent Non-Executive Director.
- Chams Plc announces the appointment of Patricia Duru as new CFO
- NPF Microfinance Bank reports a profit after tax of N614.42 million in FY 2020.
- UACN Property Development Company Plc appoints Ojo Odunayo as new CEO.
- Unilever Nigeria Plc reports a loss of N492 million in Q1 2021.