President Jonathan muzzles Shell to pay Dan Etete $1.3 billion

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Those who swear by the adage that a friend in power is a friend lost, must rethink their position as President Goodluck Jonathan has put his high office at the service of his long-time friend Dan Etete to bring pressure to bear on Shell to cough out a whopping $1.3 billion. Barring any last minute changes, it is now evident that former Oil Minister, Dan Etete will soon be smiling all the way to the bank to cash-in on the whooping $1.3 billion buy-out settlement paid by Royal Dutch Shell in the protracted litigation between Shell and Etete's outfit, Malabu Oil & Gas over OPL 245, which houses potential reserves of 3 billion barrels. learnt from Aso Rock sources that President Goodluck Jonathan personally intervened to arm-twist Shell to pay-up, else risk further jeopardizing its business interests in Nigeria. A Presidential source told on condition of anonymity that President Jonathan was blunt when he met Thursday with Shell's Chief Executive Officer in Abuja to discuss the situation in the oil-producing Niger Delta, which has seen a lull in violence in the last few months. '…You should also understand that Dan (Etete) is my very good friend and we come a long way back,' the source quoted Jonathan as saying, adding: 'you must lead the way in finding solutions to the problems you created because after Dan brought you guys in, you decided to kick him out. The government is willing to help, but this is a problem that Shell created and the earlier you resolve it, the better for everyone.'  

  It was yet the most savage indictment of Shell by a sitting President, but the bluntness and hardball tactics paid off as Shell realized that in view of the extremely close ties between Dan Etete and President Jonathan, it was indeed in their long-term strategic interests to finally negotiate a settlement. Shell later informed its staff that it had reached an agreement in partnership with Agip to buy out Malabu's stake on the license for $1.3 billion.  

  Considered one of the most oil-rich parts of Nigeria's deep offshore, OPL 245 was awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas in April, 1998 during the transitional presidency of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Two years later, Malabu brought Shell into the acreage and the Anglo-Dutch giant carried out several 3D seismic exploration campaigns and identified major oil reserves. In 2002, then President Olusegun Obasanjo withdrew OPL 245 from Malabu on grounds it had won the oil block in questionable conditions and awarded it surprisingly to Shell. Smelling a rat, Malabu accused Shell of under-hand tactics and filed suit in the USA and in Nigeria. The courts intervened and OPL 245 was re-awarded to Malabu in 2006.  

  Feeling that it had been double-crossed out of the acreage by Nigerian government officials, Shell filed a counter-suit and opened arbitration proceedings at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC. Following the resignation of Nabil Elaraby as president of the arbitration tribunal (he was named foreign minister in the new Egyptian government) - ICSID replaced him on April 20 by Spain's Juan Fernandez-Armesto, former president of the Madrid stock market watchdog, Comision Nacional del Mercado de Valores. When Shell began arbitration proceedings on the issue in Washington in 2008, it was also bargaining directly with Malabu. Several go-betweens who acted for the parties in the dispute are reportedly now about to file suit in London to make sure they get their share of the $1.3 billion settlement which President Jonathan has secured for his friend, Dan Etete.