OPL 245: HEDA accuse AGF of misleading Nigerians

Urges Buhari to reject Malami’s advice

A civil society  organisation, (CSO), the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the advice of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to abandon the OPL 245 prosecutions in the country. 

In a letter to the President, signed by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA argued that abandoning the prosecutions would send a signal that companies are insulated from prosecution where prosecutions are likely to interrupt significant but corruptly-obtained money flows. The group maintained that this would be the opposite of the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption’s requirement.

The anti-corruption group also criticised Malami’s failure to give candid advice to President Buhari regarding Nigeria’s international law obligations. 

The group cited what it called “the series of losses” that Nigeria has experienced in the OPL 245-related cases. 

According to the group, the letter cited a number of examples of Malami’s alleged misrepresentations, including his assertion that the prosecutions were a lost cause and that the companies had no case to answer. 

HEDA argued that this was contradicted by Malami’s approval of an appeal by the Nigerian government to the Italian Supreme Court in its civil claim against Eni and Shell in Italy. They also pointed out that Nigeria had won its first case in London, resulting in the return of $80 million to the national coffers, and that $115 million remains frozen in Switzerland as a result of the legal team’s efforts.

The CSO accused the AGF of failing in his duty to provide the president with the facts necessary to make an informed decision on the matter, and of being disrespectful to both the president and his office. They also disputed Malami’s claim that the policy “summersault, litigation and disputes” surrounding OPL 245 were deterring investors.

HEDA further warned that abandoning the OPL 245 prosecutions would constitute a breach of Nigeria’s obligations under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and would alarm investors who wanted to see corruption routed from the country.

It, however, expressed confidence that President Buhari would reject Malami’s misleading advice, given the president’s commitment to UNCAC and upholding the rule of law by fighting corruption. The group also expressed hope that President Buhari’s successor would be as committed to the struggle and better served in the choice of Attorney-General.

The OPL 245 case has been a controversial issue in Nigeria, with allegations of corruption and fraud surrounding the licence award and subsequent exploitation of the oil field.

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