• Says it is conspiracy to defraud Nigeria
• Contract originally designed to fail – AGF
• No record of $40m investment claims-CBN
By Ese Awhotu
The Federal Government said yesterday it has begun full scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding the ruling, by a UK court, which granted $9.6bn damages against Nigeria over a purported breach of gas supply contract.
$9.6bn is equivalent to about N3.5tr, enough to fund Nigeria’s national budget.
A powerful Federal Government team led by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele was reacting to the recent UK Court ruling authorizing Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. (P&ID) to seize 9.6 billion dollars in Nigerian assets, over a contract entered into by the company and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010 for a 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA).
The court ruling was delivered on Friday, August 16, 2019 in the UK. But Nigerian officials yesterday faulted the ruling, arguing that P&ID never adhered to the terms of the contract in the first place.
Justice Minister, Malami noted that the FG resolved to launch full scale criminal investigation because it is in possession of damning evidence of criminal complicities in the said contract that is inimical to Nigeria’s interest.
Malami said the investigation will not stop at anything to unravel, apprehend and prosecute all local and international actors who conspired to plunge Nigeria into an economic crisis via a bogus ruling apparently in pursuit of their selfish interest.
The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele said in a comment that the CBN which has the statutory responsibility of supervising such a contract has no single record about the activities of the company, P&ID, including their claim of $40m investment into the contract.
“It is sad to find out that Nigerians are collaborating with foreigners to defraud the country,” Emefiele said.
According to a statement read earlier by Information Minister, Lai Mohammed at the press briefing in Abuja yesterday, Nigeria is not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID, and that there is no imminent threat to the country’s assets anywhere.
‘In the first instance, the enforcement of the award cannot even commence now because the Judge in the UK court ordered that the P&ID cannot enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumes from its current vacation.
“What this means is that enforcement action cannot begin until further hearing on the matter, which will take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption.
“The Federal Government therefore wishes to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.
“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the UK Court, to seek for a Stay of Execution of the decision, to defend its rights and to protect the assets of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Nigerians should please be assured that the Federal Government will strongly avail itself of all defences customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act to stave off any enforcement of the award.
“Finally, we want to use this opportunity to appeal to the sense of patriotism of our media in the reportage of this very sensitive matter, which is capable of threatening the very existence of the country, especially as some media outfits have clearly thrown overboard objectivity and patriotism in their very biased reporting of this matter,” he said.
Lai Mohhammed also said government wants to place on record that it views with serious concerns the underhand manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.
‘’Indications are that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration, which apparently colluded with their local and international conspirators to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.
“In view of the above, and in an attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, with the approval of Mr President, has requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to conduct a thorough investigation into the company, the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which includes commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.”
Lai Mohammed also recalled that the contract having suffered a setback, the case went to arbitration. P&ID’s claim in the arbitration proceedings was mainly for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the GSPA, he said, adding that in an interim award, the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria has breached the contract. Though Nigeria successfully applied to have that award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, the Tribunal ignored this decision.
“Consequently, on 31 January 2017, the Tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of 6.597 Billion U.S. Dollars, together with pre-award interest at the rate of 7% per annum, effective from 20 March 2013 and post-award interest a the same rate from the date of the award. This interest increased the size of the award to US$9.6 Billion,” he said.
“ After the arbitration award in 2017, Nigeria made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue amicably with P&ID but to no avail, which eventually led to the enforcement proceedings instituted, simultaneously, by the company in the UK and the US, Lai added.
“The Federal Government then engaged the services of the US law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, which took steps to defend the proceedings in the US District Court of Columbia to dismiss P&ID’s application for the enforcement of the award on the grounds that Nigeria, as a sovereign state, has an absolute right to obtain an authoritative determination of its sovereign immunity.
“While Nigeria has recorded some successes in that case in the US, the proceedings are currently on-going in the US and the Federal Government will ensure that its interest and that of the people of Nigeria are vigorously defended,” the Information Minister said.