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Nigerian Court Rules Against Statoil on Agbami Field

A Nigerian court upheld a claim by a former adviser of Statoil ASA that he was entitled to 1.5 percent of the profit from its interest in the West African nation’s Agbami offshore oil field.

John Abebe, the former adviser, claimed Statoil agreed to pay him that share of the profit from its 18.9 percent stake in the field for helping the company expand in Nigeria in the 1990s. Judge Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court in Lagos ruled today that the payment be made subject to “proper accounting” by court-appointed accountants.

Abebe “was crucial” to the oil concession granted Statoil by the government, Archibong said. The “concessions could not have been granted without a local collaborator who should be a part owner under the public policy framework.”

“Statoil disagrees with today’s ruling and will exercise its right to appeal,” Baard Glad Pedersen, a spokesman at Stavanger, Norway-based Statoil, said in an e-mailed statement. “Statoil remains confident that it is in a strong legal position to reject all claims put forward by Mr. Abebe.”

The Chevron Corp.-operated Agbami field started output in 2008 and last year reached 250,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, giving Statoil about 44,000 barrels a day. The field has reserves of about 900 million barrels of oil equivalent, according to Statoil.

Statoil is operator of two deepwater exploration licenses in Nigeria and has shares in two others, operated by Petroleo Brasileiro SA and Ocean Energy Inc.

Abebe became involved with Statoil when the company entered an alliance with BP Plc in Nigeria in the early 1990s, then Statoil spokesman Kai Nielsen said on Feb. 26. Abebe, whose brother-in-law Olusegun Obasanjo was head of state in 1976-1979 and 1999-2007, worked as a consultant for BP and later joined Statoil Nigeria’s board, he said.

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