- Malabu Oil Asks Court to Stop FG from Signing FID on $13.5bn Oil Project
In a bid to protect its stake in the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, Malubu Oil and Gas Limited on Tuesday approached a Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of the court preventing the federal government, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited and Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Limited from signing the Final Investment Decision (FID) on the $13.5 billion Zabazaba deepwater project.
The signing of the FID, according to Malabu Oil, has been slated for the second quarter of this year.
The company in a motion on notice is also asking for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the federal government and the Minister of Petroleum Resources from considering to revoke or revoking the reallocation of OPL 245 granted to the applicant by virtue of the first and second defendants’ letter of July 2, 2010, pending the determination of the suit.
The suit filed by J.A. Achimugwu on behalf of Malabu Oil and Gas was based on a THISDAY newspaper report that the federal government, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company and Agip were negotiating to sign the FID on the Zabazaba deepwater project by the second quarter of this year.
The federal government (first defendant), Minister of Petroleum Resources (second defendant), Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep (third defendant), Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (fourth defendant), Nigerian Agip Exploration Company (fifth defendant), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) (sixth defendant), and Chief Dan Etete (seventh defendant) were listed as defendants in the suit.
Justice John Tsoho has fixed May 18 for hearing of the motion.
The judge also granted leave to the applicant to serve the writ of summons and other processes on Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep at No. 21 and 22 Marina Avenue, Lagos.
Malabu Oil is further seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining each and all the defendants/respondents by themselves, their servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from offering for sale, selling, mortgaging or in any form whatsoever alienate and/or grant any oil prospecting licence or lease to any other person or persons in respect of Zabazaba deepwater and/or Etan oil fields located within the area of the OPL 245, the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
Furthermore, the plaintiff is asking for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the first and second defendants/respondents by themselves, their servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from entering into any form of agreement with the third, fourth and fifth defendants/respondents or with any third parties to prospect for and/or explore for oil/petroleum products within the area covered by Zabazaba deepwater and/or Etan oil fields within the area covered by OPL 245, the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
In the 29-paragraph affidavit, the plaintiff is claiming ownership of OPL 245 which was granted to it on April 29, 1998 and was reallocated to it on July 2, 2010 by the federal government and Minister of Petroleum Resources.
The plaintiff stated that its attention was drawn to a publication titled: “FG, Shell, Agip to sign FID for $13.5bn Zabazaba deepwater project in Q2 2017”.
Malabu held that by the said publication, the defendants were negotiating to “sign the Final Investment Decision for the $13.5 billion Zabazaba deepwater project located in Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 in the second quarter of this year”.
The plaintiff said it was obligated by the doctrine of lis pendens not to pass any title or interest in OPL 245 the subject matter of this suit, to any person or persons while this suit is pending for determination.
In the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Mohammed Sani Abacha, he said he owns 50 per cent of the share capital of Malabu Oil and Gas and has been very much involved in the affairs of the company.
Abacha, son of the late Nigerian military dictator, General Sani Abacha, stated that Malabu Oil and Gas applied for the OPL 245 and was granted same by the Minister Petroleum Resources (seventh respondent) on April 29, 1998, via a letter of the allocation of OPL 245.
He also averred that in pursuance of the allocation of OPL 245 to the plaintiff, the plaintiff made payments of N50,000 as application fees, $10,000 as bid processing fees, and part payment of a deposit of $240,000 as signature bonus.
That on July 2, 2001, the federal government and Minister of Petroleum Resources revoked OPL 245 granted to the plaintiff.
Abacha further stated that the plaintiff sued the federal government at the Federal High Court over the said revocation of OPL 245 but the matter was subsequently resolved through an out-of-court settlement agreement by the parties.
That it was common understanding between the plaintiff and the federal government in the out-of-court settlement agreement that the federal government would reallocate OPL 245 to the plaintiff.
That while the reallocation to the plaintiff of OPL 245 was subsisting, the first, third, fourth, fifth defendants and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) surreptitiously entered into what they called a Block 245 resolution agreement dated April 29, 2011, wherein the defendants agreed inter alia that the federal government shall allocate OPL 245 to Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep and Nigerian Agip Exploration Company without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiff.
That the plaintiff was never a party to the Block 245 resolution agreement purporting to require the plaintiff to relinquish its rights and interests in OPL 245 to any of the defendants.
That the plaintiff had sourced for and entered into a contractual agreement with its technical partners for the effectual realisation of OPL 245 and unless the defendants are restrained, the applicant would be forced to breach the contractual agreements with its technical partners and thereby lose its international business goodwill and reputation.
Police Wiretapped Shell CEO
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the Dutch authorities reportedly wiretapped the telephone of Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive Ben van Buerden last year as part of an investigation into a corruption scandal involving OPL 245.
Van Buerden is allegedly heard discussing “loose chatter” between “people we hired from MI6”.
The information emerged after a recording of the call was leaked to BuzzFeed News and Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. The call between van Beurden and his then-chief financial officer Simon Henry allegedly took place in February 2016, hours after Dutch investigators had visited Shell’s headquarters at the Hague.
Van Buerden is reported to have said: “Apparently they have been in my office for about three or four hours going through everything.”
He then discussed “OPL 245”, the Nigerian oil licence which the company had acquired for £1.05 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2011.
“I have nothing on OPL 245, but anyway they managed to take one folder which they thought was of relevance … and apparently they have been in your office,” he said to Henry.
Shell said in a statement to the Financial Times: “We do not believe that there is a basis to prosecute Shell. Furthermore, we are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee.”
The licence had been under investigation for two decades because the rights for OPL 245 were awarded to a company allegedly controlled by Etete, Nigeria’s then petroleum minister, who allegedly received a huge windfall when Shell invested in the asset along with Eni’s Nigerian subsidiary, Agip.
Van Buerden also allegedly said in the phone call:
Shell’s own investigation had discovered “unhelpful” and “stupid” email exchanges among former MI6 agents who the firm had hired to help broker the Nigeria deal.
He said: “There was apparently some loose chatter between … people we hired from MI6, who … must have said things like, ‘Wonder who gets a pay-off here?’”
The potential fallout for Shell in the United States, where the company was facing a separate Nigerian corruption case.
On Monday, Shell admitted for the first time that it negotiated with Etete — a convicted money-launderer in an unrelated case — having repeatedly denied the allegation, according to a BBC report. The admission came after emails were published showing direct negotiations between the two parties.
Investigators believe that £375 million of the sum Shell and Eni paid to acquire the oil field rights was laundered through a company controlled by Etete.
Jonathan Denies Getting $200m
But as the Malabu Oil deal continues to unravel, former President Goodluck Jonathan whose government brokered the out-of-court settlement in the protracted dispute between Malabu and Shell, denied allegations that he personally received $200 million from the deal.
A statement issued on Tuesday by his spokesman Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the allegations that the former president received $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu Oil deal were entirely false.
Responding to the news report published by Buzzfeed and replicated by some local newspapers, Eze said the report was “false in its entirety, and is one more in the series of fake news sponsored by those threatened by Dr. Jonathan’s continuously rising profile in the international community”.
He added: “Common sense should have shown the purveyors of this slander that the Malabu Oil deal far predated the Jonathan regime and it would only make sense for him to be bribed if he had a time machine to go back in time to when the deal was struck.
“The report relied on hearsay evidence from a man of questionable character who provided no substance to back up his false claim.
“The man quoted by the report said he ‘assumed’ that Dr. Jonathan would be bribed. Since when has the assumption of a crook been enough to smear the reputation of a patriot and international statesman like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan?”
Eze noted that the report also wrongly claimed that “Jonathan and Etete had known each other for years”, according to Shell staff, when Jonathan served as a tutor to Etete’s children while he was a minister.
“This claim is clearly ridiculous and nothing can be further from the truth,” he said.
“In the first place, the former president couldn’t have been a ‘tutor’ to Etete’s children without first establishing contact with the family.
“This is because Jonathan met Etete who served as the Petroleum Minister in General Abacha’s military regime for the first time under the succeeding civilian administration, when he was already the deputy governor of Bayelsa State.
“Even then, the fact remains that ex-President Jonathan has never met any of Etete’s children.
“Besides, Jonathan couldn’t have been anybody’s private tutor during that period, because he was already in the directorate cadre in the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC (now NDDC), having already left the academia at the time Etete was a serving minister.
“This story, coming so soon after the fake news that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan refused British help in rescuing the Chibok Girls (a story that the British Government debunked) and that he plans to contest the 2019 elections (another lie), proves that these fallacious stories are deliberately contrived for reasons that are yet to be publicly disclosed.
“It is instructive that this same old fable apparently intended to rubbish Jonathan’s name locally and internationally, is being recycled with more lies added to garnish the narrative, at a time the ex-President is making efforts to resolve the issues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Again, let us point out for clarity and for the umpteenth time that while he was in office and now that he is out of office, former President Jonathan did not open and does not own any bank account, aircraft or real estate outside Nigeria.
“Anyone with contrary information is challenged to publicly publish same.
“Finally, Dr. Jonathan appeals to the media to report facts rather than innuendo and gossip. He asks that the media ought to remember that he signed the Freedom of Information Act into law and it is only fair to use it to investigate allegations and establish the truth.
“Dr. Jonathan cannot stop criminals from ‘assuming’, but he can and he will stop them from getting away with blatant lies,” Eze added.
Increased Demand Paves The Way for Expansion of Africa’s Sugar Industry
Africa, June 2021: A new focus report produced by the Oxford Business Group (OBG), in partnership with the International Sugar Organization (ISO), explores the potential that Africa’s sugar industry holds for growth on the back of an anticipated rise in regional demand. The report was presented to ISO members during the MECAS meeting at the Organization’s 58th Council Session, on June 17th 2021.
Titled “Sugar in Africa”, the report highlights the opportunities for investors to contribute to the industry’s development by helping to bridge infrastructure gaps in segments such as farming and refining and port facilities.
The report considers the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could deliver by supporting fair intra-African sugar trade efforts and bringing regulatory frameworks under a common umbrella, which will be key to improving competitiveness.
The increased international focus on ESG standards is another topical issue examined. Here, the report charts the initiatives already under way in Africa supported by green-focused investment with sustainability at their core, which will help to instil confidence in new investors keen to adhere to ESG principles in their decision-making.
In addition, subscribers will find coverage of the impact that Covid-19 had on the industry, with detailed analysis provided of the decrease in both worldwide sugar production and prices, as movement restrictions and social-distancing measures took their toll on operations.
The report shines a spotlight on sugar production in key markets across the continent, noting regional differences in terms of output and assessing individual countries’ roles as net exporters and importers.
It also includes an interview with José Orive, Executive Director, International Sugar Organisation, in which he maps out the particularities of the African sugar industry, while sharing his thoughts on what needs to be done to promote continental trade and sustainable development.
“The region is well advanced in terms of sugar production overall, but several challenges still hinder its full potential,” he said. “It is not enough to just produce sugar; producers must be able to move it to buyers efficiently. When all negotiations related to the AfCFTA have concluded, we expect greater investment across the continent and a clearer regulatory framework.”
Karine Loehman, OBG’s Managing Director for Africa, said that while the challenges faced by Africa’s sugar producers shouldn’t be underestimated, the new report produced with the ISO pointed to an industry primed for growth on the back of anticipated increased consumption across the continent and higher levels of output in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Regional demand for sugar is expected to rise in the coming years, driven up by Africa’s population growth and drawing a line under declines triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “With sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita sugar consumption currently standing at around half of the global average, the opportunities to help meet increasing domestic need by boosting production are considerable.”
The study on Africa’s sugar industry forms part of a series of tailored reports that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.
Global Demand for Investment Gold Plunged by 70% YoY to 161 Metric Tons in Q1 2021
Last year, investors flocked to gold as stock markets crashed on a gloomy economic outlook due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, global demand for investment gold surged to over 591 metric tons, the second-highest level since 2016. However, the investors’ demand for gold has dropped significantly this year.
According to data compiled by AksjeBloggen, global demand for investment gold plunged by 70% year-over-year to 161 metric tons in the first quarter of 2021.
The Lowest Quarterly Figures after Record Gold Investments in 2020
In 2016, the global gold demand amounted to 4,309 metric tons, revealed Statista and the World Gold Council data. By the end of 2019, this figure rose to 4,356 metric tons. Investment gold accounted for 30% of that amount. Worldwide gold jewelry demand volumes reached 2,118 metric tons that year. Central banks and technology followed with 648 and 326 metric tons, respectively.
Statistics show the global demand for investment gold surged amid the COVID-19 outbreak, growing by 35% YoY to almost 1,800 metric tons in 2020. Demands for gold used in technology also rose by 17% to 383.4 metric tons, while central banks and other institutions bought 326.2 metric tons of gold in 2020, a 50% plunge in a year.
However, after record gold investments in 2020, the global demand for gold for investment purposes dropped to the lowest quarterly level in years.
The Price of Gold Dropped by 5% Since January
The average gold value tends to increase during a recession, making it an attractive investment in uncertain times. In February 2019, a troy ounce of gold cost $1,320.07, revealed the Statista and World Gold Council data. By the end of that year, the price of gold rose to $1,479.13.
The gold price continued growing throughout 2020, reaching an all-time high of over $2,000 in August. By the end of the year, the precious metal price slipped to $1,864 and then rose to over $1,950 in January 2021.
However, the first quarter of the year brought a negative trend, with the price of gold falling to $1,684 by the end of March. Statistics indicate the price of gold stood at around $1,860 last week, a 5% drop since the beginning of the year.
Gold, Other Safe Haven Assets Plunge Ahead of Fed Rate Hikes
Gold and other safe-haven assets plunged last week as the Federal Reserve signals the possibility of raising interest rates twice in 2023 given the ongoing economic recovery post-COVID-19.
The price of gold dropped by 6.04 percent last week as investors rushed to move their funds out of safe-haven assets including the new gold, cryptocurrency.
The entire crypto space sheds $898 billion in market value to hover around $1.625 trillion last week, down from $2.523 trillion recorded on Wednesday 12, 2021. Its highest market capitalisation till date.
The Federal Reserve raised inflation expectations to 3.4 percent and shifted the year it is expected to increase interest rates from near-zero to 2023 from the previously projected 2024.
The new hawkish stance of the central bank led to capital outflow from safe havens and subsequently boosted dollar attraction.
The United States Dollar gained across the board with the dollar index that tracks its performance against six major currencies, rising by 0.63 percent to 91.103 last week.
However, on Monday morning the gold showed signs of recovery, gaining 0.5 percent to $1,772.34 per ounce following the retreat in U.S. treasury yield that boosted the attraction of non-yielding metal.
Bitcoin, the most dominant cryptocurrency coin, pared losses to $33,245 per coin, up from the $32,658 decline it posted last week.
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