Teddy Oscar, Abuja
Call to adopt the report of the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee on Malabu Oil and Gas, which urged the Federal Government to cancel the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL 245) belonging to Shell Nigeroa Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCO) and AGIP, nearly died to opposition from some members, who stood against it on the floor of the Green Chambers of the National Assembly.
Recall that the consideration of the report, which was earlier laid on July 9, 2013, during the Committee of the Whole at the plenary, was postponed, following a point of order against it by Hon. Robinson Uwak.
In approving the recommendations of the committee led by Hon. Leo Ogor, House deputy majority leader, the House said “that the Federal Government should cancel OPL 245 recently granted to SNEPCO (50%) and AGIP (50%), as it was based on a highly flawed ‘Resolution agreement’ entered between Malabu Oil and Gas, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) and Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) with the Federal Government acting as obligator”.
The House reasoned that the “resolution agreement ceded away our national interest and further committed Nigeria to some unacceptable indemnities and liabilities while acting as obligator”.
Other recommendations adopted include “that the Federal Government through the ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation facilitates a new Resolution Agreement in line with the Petroleum Act and Indigenous Concession Programme of Government that guided the initial allocation of OPL245 to Malabu Oil and Gas.
“That AGIP Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd (NAE) be formally censured or reprimanded by the House for its role in the Resolution Agreement, which lacked transparency and did not meet international best business practices.
“That Shell Nigeria Ultra Deeps (SNUD) be censured or reprimanded by the House for its lack of transparency and full disclosure in its bid to acquire OPL 245; that Nigeria Police should take over the ongoing investigation on the matter of forgery and alteration of documents indicating some directors of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd who resigned their positions or transferred their appointments or shares without authorization, and initiate prosecution of any person indicted.
“That in line with global best practices, accountability and transparency, individuals and financial institutions linked with and found culpable by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 9EFCC) of receiving and transferring money unlawfully with respect to or arising out of the Resolution Agreement, should be charged to an appropriate court of competent jurisdiction, and nay such monies unlawfully transferred should be recovered.”
But trouble began on Tuesday when Hon. Simon Arabor raised a constitutional point of order submitting that the House had usurped the jurisdiction of the courts in recommending that the contract agreement between Malabu Oil; SNEPCO and Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) with the Federal Government acting as obligator be cancelled.
Citing Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution defines the powers of the legislature, while Section 6(6), which vests the powers of the adjudication in the courts, he argued that the ad hoc committee by its recommendations was playing the role of advocate for Malabu Oil.
“The report is going to embarrass this House. We cannot sit here and interpret the agreement. We should discountenance this report,” he added.
The deputy speaker, thereafter, invited Hon. Uzor Azubuike, chairman, committee on public petitions, to respond to the point of order.
In his response, Azubuike submitted that notwithstanding the argument of Arabor, sections 88 and 89 of the constitution empowers the House to look into any matter, so the point of order was out of place.
Hon. Ali Ahmad, chairman, committee on justice, who maintained that Arabor’s observation was correct that the House cannot dabble into judicial matters, observed that: “if you look at the recommendations, you can make a general statement that the matter is judicious.”
But the deputy speaker ruled that the in line with the House rules, the recommendations would be taken one after the other and any member not in support should vote against it.
A suggestion from Hon. Kareem Akinlabi that the Federal Government should be urged to ‘review’ and not ‘cancel’ the contract was also rejected.
Consequent attempts by both Arabor and Ahmad to amend recommendations seven and nine were also rebuffed, and the report was subsequently adopted by the majority voice vote.