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Nigeria oil bribery case: Netherlands and US must reopen investigations into Eni and Shell’s role

Both countries have an international obligation to punish foreign bribery

Transparency International and its chapters in the Netherlands and the US urge authorities in the two countries to reopen investigations into Eni and Shell for alleged bribe-paying in Nigeria.

The two oil multinationals are alleged to have paid over US$1billion in bribes to members of then-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for the rights to the OPL245 offshore oilfield, in a case widely recognised as seriously detrimental to the people of Nigeria. Along these lines, both the US and the Netherlands had previously opened investigations into the deal, but closed them due to a court case in Italy.

Yet in 2021 and 2022, Italian authorities acquitted both Eni and Shell, shocking the international community. Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern in Italy, with both the OECD Working Group on Bribery and Transparency International’s own Exporting Corruption 2022 report finding the country to be limited in its enforcement against foreign bribery. Now, reports that Nigeria’s attorney general advised the country’s outgoing president to drop the long-running dispute with Eni and Shell make the reopening of proceedings in countries that have jurisdiction over the case crucial for accountability.

See our letter to the Amsterdam Court of Appeals

See our letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland

Simultaneously, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) – Transparency International’s chapter in Nigeria – urges the Nigerian government to refrain from terminating its own disputes. It is estimated that the Nigerian treasury could lose as much as US$5 billion because of the poorly negotiated fiscal terms under the OPL 245 deal.

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of CISLAC, said:

“Nigerians need answers. The outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari should reject calls to stop litigation over a deal that may have caused the Nigerian public an enormous loss. This is important especially as the current government has about a week before giving way to another administration. The incoming government must ensure that we get to the root of the matter.”