Global Witness yesterday stated that explanations made by Shell and ENI about payments made for a controversial oil deal in Nigeria are no longer sufficient, but rather, they must immediately come clean with more information about the deal.

The call comes in response to a statement made by the federal government which contradicts those made by Shell and ENI.

Earlier this month, Global Witness had highlighted details of payments agreed by Shell and ENI to the Nigerian government for a controversial oil deal exposing the need for the very transparent measures which Shell is currently opposing in the US and Europe.

In a press release dated May 20, Global Witness exposed how Nigerian subsidiaries of Shell and ENI had agreed to pay the Nigerian government US$1,092,040,000 to acquire offshore oil bloc OPL 245. It was also revealed that the federal government agreed, in the same month, to pay precisely, the same amount to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company widely reported to be controlled by Abacha-era oil minister, Dan Etete, who was convicted in France in 2007 of money-laundering.

The revelations came to light as a result of the publication of New York court documents.

Both Shell and ENI have denied paying any money to Malabu Oil and Gas in respect of the licence and suggest that their agreements were only with the Nigerian government. However, a recent statement from the attorney general and minister of justice Mohammed Bello Adoke appears to contradict this.

In a recent interview, Adoke had stated that: “SNUD (A Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary in Nigeria) and ENI agreed to pay Malabu, through the federal government acting as an obligor, the sum of US$1,092,040,000 billion in full and final settlement of any and all claims, interests or rights relating to or in connection with Bloc 245.”

Reports have also claimed that the federal government has instructed the release; almost 80 percent of the funds paid for OPL245 (US$801,540,000) into accounts controlled by Malabu and that this money was subsequently shared through a set of complex, corporate structures to accounts owned by a number of Nigerian companies and individuals.

Although Global Witness said it was not in a position to confirm these claims about the release of the funds, nor their subsequent distribution, it however noted: “We believe that these claims raise serious further questions about the transparency of the arrangements for the settlement of OPL245 and the ultimate beneficiaries of the deal.”