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29 March 2017

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Malabu Oil Block Fraud

SPN Demands Government takeover of OPL 245 and Nationalization of the Oil and Gas Industry under democratic management

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) hereby demands that government takes over Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 with immediate effect and runs the oil block as a public entity under democratic control and management for the good and benefit of the entire people of Nigeria.

Not doing this would allow this highly lucrative oil field to fall into the hands of crooks of all shades who are now circling round to have a slice of the collective wealth of our people. If this happens, the result would be further enrichment of a crooked few at the expense of the vast majority.

As far as we are concerned, OPL 245 and the entire oil and gas resources of Nigeria are the collective wealth of the entirety of the people of Nigeria. Therefore no individual or private company, whether local or multinational, has a right to take ownership of it.

We therefore demand that all individuals connected with this robbery of our collective wealth be immediately prosecuted. We also demand that oil and gas companies linked with the crime should be immediately stopped from doing business in Nigeria and all their holdings within the country be confiscated and nationalized.

We make this call because of the unending scandal and legal battle rocking the sale of this oil block both within Nigeria and in the UK and Italy for more than a decade now. The latest ruling of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court granted the ownership of the oil block to Shell and Agip thereby vacating the January 26 order that granted the government interim ownership.

Now following this ruling, the family of late military dictator Sanni Abacha is out demanding a share of the prize. In all of these, the ordinary people of Nigeria and the ordinary people of the Niger Delta who are the legitimate owners of the entire oil resources in the country are not considered.

OPL is said to be the biggest oil block in Africa. The highly lucrative oil block which, according to industry figures, is said to hold at least 9.23 billion barrels of crude oil, equivalent to nearly one quarter of Nigeria's total proven reserves, has been rocked by scandal since its fraudulent sale by the Abacha military dictatorship in 1998. In a display of legendary crookedness, Dan Atete, Abacha's oil minister, sold the oil block to Malabu Oil and Gas - a company he set up and owns. Malabu later contracted Shell Petroleum and SNEPCO, in a joint venture scheme, to operate the license.

Afterwards in 2011, in a deal negotiated by the then country's attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the Jonathan government concessioned OPL 245 to Shell and ENI who paid $1.2 billion to Dan Atete and Malabu plus a signature bonus of $210 million to the Nigerian government. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said its investigation further revealed that the government was defrauded by SPDC and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd by underpaying the sum of $210 million as a signature bonus on OPL 245.

The OPL 245 scandal just like the 2012 fuel subsidy scandal shows the highly corrupt and opaque situation in the oil and gas sector and the frequent connivance of top government officials, politicians, industry regulators and multinational companies to defraud the country. Nigeria's oil and gas sector is dominated by a handful of multinational oil giants who make away with enormous profit from lifting and export of crude oil and gas. Apart from corruption and treasury looting, the placement of the oil and gas sector in private hands is a fundamental factor responsible for Nigeria's underdevelopment and the existence of mass poverty in the midst of abundant potentials and resources.

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) therefore calls for the public ownership of the oil and gas sector under the democratic control and management of the working people. It is only under this kind of pro-working people arrangement that it can be possible to ensure that Nigeria's oil wealth is of benefit to the mass majority unlike the present situation whereby our oil wealth only enriches a tiny gang of politicians, oil multinationals and subsidy thieves. Equally it is only this kind of pro-working people arrangement that can ensure that the ordinary people of the oil producing states benefit from the oil resources found on their land while allowing for a rational plan to create alternative and clean energy sources and restore the Niger Delta environment serially violated and degraded by decades of unbridled activities of the oil companies.

Unfortunately, a capitalist government like the Buhari government cannot be expected to defend the collective wealth of the people and prevent its encroachment by capitalist vultures. Already, the same Buhari government is handing over many other prized public assets to private hands through neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation and concessioning. The railways are now top on the list of national assets the Buhari government wishes to sell off. Meanwhile, the history of privatization, looking at the sale of the power sector, Daily Times newspaper etc, in Nigeria shows that this economic measure is fraudulent and cannot help to develop the country.

To put an end to such mindless rape of our collective wealth, the working people of Nigeria have to struggle to end capitalism and enthrone a working and poor people's government based on a socialist program. It is only under this kind of government that collective resources and wealth of the society can be defended and placed under public ownership and democratic management in order to ensure that these resources are used primarily for the benefit of the mass majority instead of the profit of a few.

Chinedu Bosah
National Secretary, SPN