Justice John Tsoho of the federal high court, Abuja has ordered that Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 245, be temporarily forfeited to the federal government pending the conclusion of investigations into the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil deal scam.
The order follows an exparte order filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday.
OPL 245 is believed to be the largest oil field in Africa with over 9 billion barrels of crude oil, but was acquired from the federal government by Malabu oil and gas limited, a company controlled by former minister of petroleum resources, Dan Etete.
In 1998, the oil well was sold to two oil giants, Shell and ENI, the parent company of Agip oil for $1.1 billion paid into the accounts of Malabu oil and gas limited.
Moving the application on Thursday, counsel to the EFCC, Johnson Ojogbane, urged the court to grant the order pending the investigation and prosecution of the suspects that had been indicted in the fraud.
The EFCC had in December 2016 filed fraud and money laundering charges against Etete, as well as former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke and one Aliyu Abubakar who was said to have been used as a front by top government officials, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Adoke was accused of illegally transferring over $800 million purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from a Federal Government account.
While the EFCC accused Aliyu, who is the Chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336,456,906.78.
However, on Thursday, the EFCC provided additional names of suspects it intends to investigate in connection to the oil deal scam.
They include: Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration Limited, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited “and other individuals”.
Ojogbane said on Thursday that the suspects were being investigated “in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering”.
Other defendants in the charges filed by the EFCC aside Etete and Abubakar were: Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, Group Construction Ltd and Megatech Engineering Ltd.