Skip to main content

Malabu Scandal: Obasanjo Gave Etete Oil Block To “Shore Up Political Support In Southern Nigeria”, Ex-Russian Diplomat Tells Court

"Agaev said people tried to politicise the decision but "the main reason was legal". The prosecutor then confronts Agaev with his FBI interview Agaev said the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the the south of Nigeria."


A former Russian Ambassador charged with corruption over the OPL 245 scandal, Ednan Tofik Ogly Agaev, has claimed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave Dan Etete the initially revoked OPL 245 oil block “to shore up political support in the south of Nigeria.”

Etete was Minister of Petroleum under the late General Sani Abacha who used a fake identity to get the lucrative oil block, OPL 245.

While serving as President in 2001, Obasanjo revoked Malabu’s licence and reassigned the oil block to Shell. The oil block was eventually assigned back to Malabu.

Shell and Italian oil major Eni have been embroiled in a protracted corruption case revolving around the purchase of the OPL 245.

The OPL 245, better known as Malabu oil block, with reserves estimated at nine billion barrels has been at the centre of an ongoing corruption trial in Milan, Italy.

Barnaby Pace, a campaigner at the anti-corruption group, Global Witness, which has been advocating justice on the issue, monitored the proceedings at the Milan Court on Wednesday.

He shared the details of Agaev’s revelation in a series of tweets.

He wrote on Twitter, “Agaev alleged that Obasanjo said the block (OPL245) was intended for the late dictator, Sani Abacha, a former Nigerian military ruler but became Etete’s after the later ruler’s death.

“Agaev explains that he started his career for the Soviet Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he was a senior official for arms control, took part in nuclear arms negotiations, was a senior official at the UN and Ambassador for Russia to Columbia.

“Agaev knew former President Obasanjo for the first time in the 80s, he campaigned for Obasanjo's release in the 90s. After Obasanjo's release, he visited Agaev in Columbia. Agaev says he didn't learn about OPL 245 until 2008  when working for a Russian oil company.

“Agaev says he knew the OPL 245 block was revoked because Etete was associated with Malabu, the company owning the block. Agaev claims Obasanjo said the block was actually intended for Abacha, after Abacha's death, it fell to Etete.

“Agaev says Obasanjo said he had to give the block back to Malabu because of legal mistakes in the revocation. Claims Malabu won in court, the prosecutors point out that actually, Malabu lost in court.

“Agaev said people tried to politicise the decision but "the main reason was legal". The prosecutor then confronts Agaev with his FBI interview. Agaev said the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the south of Nigeria.

“Agaev says he was introduced to Etete by General Gusau in 2008, Gusau had been the National Security Advisor under President Obasanjo and then later under Goodluck Jonathan. Gusau wanted him to find a Russian oil company investor to deal with Etete and Shell. 

“Agaev says Gusau introduced him to John Coplestone of Shell. Gusau knew Coplestone because he had been head of the MI6 station in Abuja.

“Agaev says he only ever met Etete from Malabu, he was the only person representing them on OPL 245. Gusau wanted to make money from a Russian investor. Gusau had previously helped free 15 Russian hostages held by militants.

“Agaev says his job was only to find an investor. Etete was in charge of negotiating with the Nigerian government. Etete didn't need any help or contacts from Agaev.

“Agaev describes Shell executives Coplestone and Colegate as intelligence agents. Coplestone head of MI6 in Nigeria, Colegate was in charge of intelligence in Hong Kong. Peter Robinson was in charge of the business.

“Agaev contradicts his FBI statement saying now that nobody ever asked for bribes, previously he said oil deals in Nigeria were hard because people asked for kickbacks and the amount of kickbacks kept changing.

“Agaev explains the other middleman Emeka Obi had a plan to agree a sale price with Etete, agree a higher price with Eni and Obi would get the difference, the "excess price" but this didn't work. Agaev says his commission was to come from Etete.

“Agaev is asked about Granier Deferre's diagram with money from the deal flowing to "management". Agaev says he doesn't know about the diagram but Malabu had no management, Etete always called himself an advisor to Malabu but they had no managers.

“Agaev is being asked about his fellow middleman Obi's meeting with Gusau, he says he thinks Obi wanted to know about the security situation. Obi's meeting with Diezani Alison Madueke, he vaguely says it was probably about technical issues with OPL 245.

“Agaev is asked whether Shell knew he was being paid a commission. He says yes, he had to prove he had a mandate with Malabu. Otherwise, Shell employees were under very strict instructions not to discuss OPL 245.

“Agaev says he was told by Gusau of the rumoured romantic relationship between Goodluck Jonathan and Alison Madueke. Gusau also called her "extremely greedy and a crook". Agaev says Gusau" was head of the secret services so I assume he knew what he was talking about".

“Agaev says Coplestone or Colegate told him when senior Eni executives were visiting Abuja to try to do a deal for OPL 245. Agaev says a sticking point was Shell didn't want to pay any cash in the deal as they had already invested in the block.

“Agaev says the Nigerian Government wouldn't accept if the price for the block was less than $1.5bn, they knew how valuable the block was. He's pressed and then says Etete wouldn't accept a lower price so the govt wouldn't have a deal to approve.”