Lagos — Italian firm Eni has insisted that the money it paid for the acquisition of Nigeria’s Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245 followed due processes.
The firm, in a statement, reiterated its stand on the matter, saying it was “highly disappointed” that prosecutors continue to use flows of money which occurred after the company paid for the OPL 245 license as evidence, in order to support its accusations of corruption against the company.
“Payment for OPL 245 was made directly to the Nigerian government, in a clear, linear and transparent manner using an internationally-renowned bank. Eni was not aware, and was in no way required to be aware, of any flows of funds following its direct payment,” the statement read.
The clarification came after the Nigerian government appealed before a Milan court on Wednesday to demand that Eni and Royal Dutch Shell pay $1.092 billion as an immediate advance payment for damages in one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever corruption scandals.
Lucio Lucia, the lawyer for the Nigerian government called for the advance payment; ahead of a broader damages package to be set by the court at a later date.
“The civil party wrongfully presents a negotiation between Eni and Shell on one side and Nigerian government representatives on the other as illicit, alleging that the two companies were aware of unlawful intentions of the Government representatives. Eni maintains that it acted lawfully, dealing with the Ministries of a sovereign government, traditionally competent with respect to operations such as these, acting properly in negotiations of this complexity through transversal, complex and proven processes for evaluation and analysis”, the statement added.
In relation to the Nigerian civil party’s suggestions that the price paid materially undervalues the license, Eni emphasised that the economic offer was “congruous and reasonable” when considering the value of the OPL 245 exploration field and the investments necessary to be able to put it into production.
It said the final amount paid by Eni to the Nigerian government was agreed by the parties following an in-depth geological, technical and economic examination.
“It also considers the historical evolution of the Nigerian and international oil markets. Suffice it to consider, for example, that at the end of September 2011 the Brent was valued over 100 dollars, while today it is around 40 dollars”.
“Moreover, the transaction price of $1.09 billion dollars, net of the signature bonus, equals the assessment of OPL 245 made by IHS for Shell in its 2009 arbitration against the Federal Government of Nigeria, when the British/Dutch company had no interest whatsoever in underestimating the asset to which it was laying claim”, it said.
In July, prosecutors in the case asked for Eni and Shell to be fined; and some of their present and former executives; including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, to be jailed.
They also requested the confiscation of a total of $1.092 billion from all the defendants in the case; the equivalent of the bribes alleged to have been paid.