Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed October 20, 2022 to conduct a trial-within-trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statements of Aliyu Abubakar one of defendants in the trial of the controversial $1.3 billion Oil Processing License (OPL) 245 otherwise known as Malabu Oil.
At the resumed trial on the case on Wednesday, an Investigating officer of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) official, Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed, told Justice Ekwo how Chief Dan Etete, a former Minister of Petroleum, allegedly shared the proceed of $1.3 billion Malabu Oil deal among his associates.
The sale of OPL 245 reportedly owned by Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, has been under controversy following an alleged complicity and fraud in the deal. It has been contested in the courts even outside Nigeria.
But giving evidence in the case, with Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, Ahmed, narrated how the proceeds from the sale were transferred from JP Morgan into Malabu’s accounts with First Bank and Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) and subsequently transferred to various companies’ accounts, the defendants in Suit directly benefited.
According to the witness, some of the beneficiary companies included those owned by, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar, an Abuja businessman currently standing trial before the court, according to The Street Journal’s report.
The witness also told the court that EFCC, apart from Abubakar is also prosecuting seven other companies, accused of benefiting from the alleged diversion of the proceeds of Malabu Oil sales.
He listed the seven companies as – Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, A. Group Construction Company Ltd, Rocky Top Resources Ltd, Megatech Engineering Ltd, Novel Properties and Development Company Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd and Carlin International Nigeria Ltd.
The EFCC Officer, further, disclosed that some board resolutions were forged to alter the actual ownership of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
Led in evidence by EFCC’s lawyers, Offem Uket, Ahmed said, “Again, in 2010 another purported board resolution was filed in Corporate Affairs Commission by one Barrister Ayo Ademola.
“The documents filed by Ademola suggested that the initial directors have resigned their directorship and their shares in which Joseph Amara and Seisougha Munamuna were appointed as directors not minding the changes earlier made.
“When the documents were filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission, having them discovered that those documents were forged, the Corporate Affairs Commission returned the company to status quo.
“Similarly, the second step was to identify the bank accounts owned by Malabu Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited and the investigating team discovered that Malabu Oil and Gas have two accounts which are domiciliary accounts domiciled at First Bank and former Bank PHB and the only signatory to the accounts was Chief Duazia Loya Etete,” he said.
Speaking further, th EFCC official said that analysis of the statement of account, revealed that the account of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited domiciled with Keystone Bank (formerly Bank PHB) on August 24, 2011, received the sum of $400 million from JP Morgan.
He stated further that Etete, on September 6, 2011, fraudulently transferred the sum of $334 million to Rocky Top Resources account domiciled with the same Keystone Bank.
“On September 24, 2013, another sum of $75 million were transferred to the same Malabu Oil and Gas Limited account with Keystone Bank out of which $74 million and some fractions, same was transferred to the Rocky Top Resources account but only $73 million and some fractions got into the account.
“Similarly, on August 24, 2011, another sum of $401,540,000.00 was transferred to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited account with First Bank from J. P. Morgan.
“On August 29, 2011, Chief Etete transferred the sum of $157 million into the account of A Group Construction Company Limited.
“On the same August 29, 2011, Chief Etete again transferred the sum of $180 million to Megatech Engineering Ltd.
“On the same August 29, 2011, the same Chief Etete transferred the sum of $34,540,000.00 to Novel Properties and Development Limited. On September 2, 2011, he transferred another sum of $30 million to Novel Property and Development Limited,” he alleged.
On the account with First Bank, he said his team, “discovered that A Group Construction received $157million from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Megatech Engineering received $180 million from Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
“Furthermore, Novel Property received $34,540,000.00 and also $30,000 000.00 from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.”
Ahmed disclosed that on further studying of the account opening documents of MegaTech Engineering and, A Group- Construction Company, it was discovered that Aliyu Abubakar (the 8th defendant) was the signatory to the accounts.
He added that investigation revealed that before the transfer to Rocky Top Resources, Aliyu Abubakar had an interest in the company, adding that when the money came in, he sold the company and introduced Chief Dan Etete as the sole signatory of the account.
He told the court how Abubakar volunteered statements and the prosecution was at the point of determining the statements when the defence team including Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Olalekan Ojo (SAN), Joshua Musa (SAN) and others objected on the grounds that the statements were not made voluntarily.
Responding, the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo opted to conduct a trial-within-trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statements.