Nigeria seeking $1b in damages from oil giants

 MILAN – The Nigerian government is seeking more than $ 1 billion in damages from Eni and Royal Dutch Shell in one of the oil industry’s biggest corruption cases, Italian media reports.

 During Wednesday’s Milan hearing, Lucio Lucia, the lawyer representing the Nigerian government asked for an advance payment of $1.092 billion, an amount considered equivalent to the bribes allegedly paid out to politicians of the Abuja government.

 According to the lawyer, the Nigerian Republic suffered “enormous financial damage” from the lack of a tender process, depriving it of a competitive offer.

 In addition, Lucia claims Eni and Shell would have been "fully aware" that the money paid by the two oil companies to obtain exploration rights for oil block OPL 245 would have been paid to former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum and convicted money-launderer Dan Etete.

 The oil giants purchased the OPL 245considered to be the most valuable oil field in West Africa – in 2011 for around $1.3 billion from Malabu, a company owned by Etete.

 Mr Lucia claims Eni and Shell were aware that to close the deal “under very favourable terms,” they were to pay Etete and that he would turn over a portion of the sum to Nigerian public officials.

 Defence lawyers representing Eni and Shell are now set to take centre stage, with a final judgement expected by the end of the year.