Nigerian Gov't Orders Arrest of Shell Managing Director

The Nigerian House of Representatives issued a warrant for the arrest of the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Ron Van Der Berg in connection with his refusal to appear before the House Committee investigating the revocation of OPL 245.

The House committee is investigating the revocation of the OPL 245 license awarded to Malabu Oil and then subsequently awarded to Shell. The government of military leader Sanni Abacha had awarded the license to Malabu for $20 million, but the civilian administration that came into office in May 1999 revoked the license and awarded it to Shell in May 2002 for $200 million.

Mr. Der Berg was subpoenaed on three occasions to appear before the committee to explain what he knew about the circumstances surrounding the deal. On the three occasions he failed to turn up. With the warrant, Der Berg becomes the first person to be issued with such since the inauguration of the House in June 1999. Issuing the warrant of arrest yesterday, chairman of the special panel and House committee on Petroleum, Hon. John Agoda, instructed the police to arrest the Shell manager with a view to bringing him before the National Assembly on April 14, date of the committee's next sitting.

Agoda said the warrant was issued by the House relying on Section 89 of the Constitution. According to the section, "The Senate or House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with Section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to... issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after being summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the committee in question." The section reads further: "A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police or by any person authorized in that behalf by the President of the Senate of the Speaker of the House."