Africa Intelligence | 20 November 2023
Abuja agrees to settlement with ENI over OPL 245
In London, the hearing led by Laurent Lévy and a three-person arbitration team at the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) lasted just a few days. The battle over block OPL 245 between Nigeria and Italian major ENI was suspended on 16 November.
ENI was asking Nigeria for reparations for preventing it from developing the block it won in 2011. The acquisition process, however, became a long courtroom saga. In November 2022, ENI was acquitted of accusations of corruption and, along with Shell, asked Abuja to pay $1.1bn in damages for lost revenue on this block capable of producing 800m bpd (see our coverage).
Former president Muhammadu Buhari chose to freeze any development on the block as long as the legal matters were still pending, but his successor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, wants to settle out of court and move forward with developing the block as quickly as possible.
Ex-justice minister Abubakar Malami called for this as early as February. He asked Buhari to convince ENI to stop the ICSID procedure in exchange for Nigeria dismissing the case in Italy and letting it explore the block.
On 10 November in Abuja, upon Nigeria’s initiative, Fabrizio Bolondi, director of ENI’s local branch, Nigerian Agip Oil Co (NAOC), answered Nigeria’s invitation to meet with Gbenga Komolafe, head of the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC). The goal of the meeting was "to re-open discussions". On 16 November, the Bloomberg website revealed that Nigeria had dropped the proceedings before the Italian courts. Scheduled for 6 December, then postponed until 24 May, the hearings before the Supreme Court will not take place.